European football could escape new anti-money laundering regulations

Illegal betting, match-fixing, overvalued transfers, kickbacks, dubious investments: much more than a sport, football is today an economic sector particularly vulnerable to financial crime. Should we therefore apply the same treatment to it as finance or real estate, whose professionals are subject to strict rules for preventing money laundering?

This is the question which is currently agitating the European authorities in Brussels, where a discreet standoff is playing out between European legislators. On Wednesday November 29, the subject was on the menu of a “trilogue”, a negotiation session between the Parliament, the Commission and the Member States of the European Union (EU), which once again failed to reach a compromise on the contours of future European anti-money laundering regulations.

The European Parliament stopped its position in March : he wishes to align clubs, agents and professional football leagues with the regime applicable to bankers, notaries or real estate agents. This would require these professionals to carry out in-depth checks on the origin of the financial flows they are required to process and to send reports to the authorities at the slightest suspicion. “Criminals, oligarchs, the most fortunate and powerful have privileged means of laundering their dirty money, and football is one of them”justifies the French environmentalist MEP Damien Carême, co-rapporteur of the text, by citing the recent revelations of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on the offshore payments of the former Russian owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovitch.

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Fear of comparative disadvantage

The Commission supports the idea of ​​reinforced supervision, which it sees as an effective method of preventing malicious actors “to access the football industry and abuse clubs and players with the aim of generating and laundering criminal proceeds”according to a working note consulted by The world. This regulation would also be a means of“send a clear message to the sector”, where the “offshore payments” and the “obscure investments” are frequent, not to mention the influence of international criminal organizations.

But the Council of the EU, which brings together the representatives of the Twenty-Seven, is more reluctant. Several European capitals are sensitive to the outcry from football players, who fear that cumbersome procedures will become a disadvantage compared to their non-European competitors. Clubs are therefore worried about missing transactions at the end of the transfer window, arguing that there will be no time to carry out the necessary checks on the origin of the funds used for player transfers.

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