The era of globalization and rapid technological development also impacted Football. It is true that for many years Football, besides being a sport, has been seen as a highly profitable business. However, the possibility of earning theoretically “easy” money betting on what is the king sport in much of the world led to an astronomical growth of importance and influence of bookmakers in the world of Football (note even that today most football clubs are sponsored by or have partnerships with bookmakers).
This new reality, which has benefits in terms of revenue for clubs, has also created new concerns for the competent Football entities in Portugal. At this moment, in addition to the issues that have plagued capable Football entities for years (policing, supporters, others), there are also potential match-fixing situations (manipulation of the game to achieve a predetermined result), the growth of illegal bookmakers in Portugal and the fact that professional football players place unsportsmanlike bets.
It is precisely this last issue that we will focus on. Can or cannot a professional football player place sports bets? The answer to this question is clear, and the answer is no.
The starting point of this prohibition emanates from article 26 of the FIFA Code of Ethics, which states the following “Persons bound by this Code are prohibited from participating directly or indirectly, betting, gambling, games of chance, lotteries or similar events or transactions related to football matches or competitions and/or any other related to Football activities”.
Note that the persons bound by this FIFA code of ethics are Football Players, Club Officials and Football Referees. All prohibitions implemented to sports betting by FIFA in Football apply equally to Futsal.
Moreover, FIFA also prohibits participation in any entity, organization, brokerage or company related to Football that exercises an activity where it is possible to withdraw patrimonial increments. Regarding this prohibition, recall the famous case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who in 2018 owned a Swedish-based bookmaker and was sentenced, by FIFA, to pay €50,000.00.
Internally, the Portuguese Football Federation has worked to increase the number of legislation applicable to sports betting. As a result, it is essentially in numbers 2 and 3 of article 142 of the Disciplinary Regulations of the FPF that we find the prohibitions contained in the FIFA Code of Ethics transposed to Portugal, which has the following content “The player who, directly or indirectly, participates in sports betting related to official matches, regardless of the place of its realization, is sanctioned with a fine between 10 and 50 UC.” and “When the bet is made on a game in which he participates or is involved, the player is also sanctioned with suspension between 1 and 3 sports seasons.
Therefore, there is no doubt that sports agents may not place sports bets on Football and Futsal (regardless of the League in which they bet) but may bet on any other sport. It should also be noted that these prohibitions imposed by FIFA and the FPF apply to all athletes from the First League to the Portuguese Championship.
Given the wage conditions and investments presented both in the Portuguese Championship and in League 3, there is a more significant concern with illegal betting and potential match-fixing situations in these competitions, with a greater likelihood of these conducts occurring in the final stages of the championships where the final classification will no longer change.
Finally, it seems necessary to distinguish the consequences of illegal betting by a professional football player and situations where there is match-fixing regardless of the existence of a sports bet by the professional player.
In the first situation, if a professional player places a bet on a football/futsal match where he will not be a party, we will face a severe offence situation, and the player may be fined up to 50 CU = €5. 100.00; if he places a bet where he will be a party, he may, under the FPF disciplinary regulations, be suspended from participation in FPF competitions for one to three seasons, adding to the fact that, by the provisions of article 11-A of law no. 13/2017, this conduct is a crime and may be sentenced to imprisonment of up to three years.
In the second situation, it is crucial to understand that we are facing a criminal offence regardless of the contours of the act, which may lead to a prison sentence of up to seven or ten years if any sports agent intercedes with any person to manipulate the match and if the sports agent controls the game through his actions, respectively.
The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.