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Betting Links Land Ibrahimović in Hot Water as UEFA Opens Probe

Europe’s football governing body, UEFA, has launched a disciplinary investigation into AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimović over an alleged financial interest in Malta-licensed sports betting company Bethard Group.

In a statement on its site, UEFA said Monday that it has appointed an Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector to conduct a “disciplinary investigation regarding a potential violation of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations by Mr. Zlatan Ibrahimović for having an alleged financial interest in a betting company.”

UEFA said that it would provide further information regarding the matter in due course.

Under UEFA and FIFA rules, players are not allowed to participate in any of the two organizations’ competitions if they hold financial interests in gambling companies.

Ibrahimović, who in his lengthy career has lined out for Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester United and is known for his flamboyant style and antics on and off the field, reportedly holds a 10% stake in Bethard through his company Unknown AB.

News about the UEFA investigation come about two weeks after Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that the footballer became a part-owner of the gambling operator in 2018 and retains a financial interest in it to date.

Under FIFA regulations, the football veteran could face a three-year ban, which could effectively put an end to his career, and a fine exceeding $100,000. It is unclear what UEFA’s sanctions might be should the ongoing probe find that Ibrahimović indeed has an interest in Bethard.

Earlier this month, the former Manchester United star extended his contract with Milan until the end of next season, which means that he will continue playing beyond his 40th birthday in October. He recently also returned to Sweden’s national fold after a five-year hiatus.

Ibrahimović’s Links with Bethard

Ibrahimović’s name was first linked to Bethard in 2018 when he was tapped as the company’s ambassador. A statement on the sports betting operator’s site from back then also reads that in addition to acting as the ambassador for the Bethard brand, he would also engage “in the ongoing development of the company’s offering.”

Of his partnership with the gambling operator, which was formed a decade ago and originally operated under a Curacao license, Ibrahimović said:

”I have obviously been intensively courted by betting companies throughout my career, but up until now I have not been presented to anything that has triggered me. With Bethard, there was something different. It’s a company with Swedish roots, the founders are from my home town and they are true challengers who really want to do things differently.”

That statement suggested that the football legend’s role at the company was much bigger than just promoting and popularizing the Bethard brand.

In a 2019 interview with The Times of Malta, Bethard CEO and founder, Erik Skarp, said that Ibrahimović was “one of our main shareholders and star ambassador.” Mr. Skarp further noted that while gambling operators spent “insane amounts of money every year to strengthen their brands”, having the AC Milan striker gave them the “competitive advantage of keeping our brand awareness with the top marketing spenders in the industry.”

While the nature of Ibrahimović’s relationship with Bethard is yet to be identified by UEFA investigators, it looks like he might be in a bit of a trouble.

Source: UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector appointed, UEFA Newsroom, April 26, 2021

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