Former Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in hot water with UEFA over having an ‘alleged financial interest’ in a betting company, it has been revealed. The Swedish forward, currently playing for AC Milan, became a partner of a betting company, which goes against the rules and regulations of the governing body of football in Europe. UEFA have appointed an inspector to look into the matter.
Ibrahimovic has always been a larger than life figure in football, often viewing himself as one of the best players in the world irrespective of the evidence. Earlier this season he was involved in a clash with Inter Milan’s striker Romelu Lukaku, in which the Swede was accused of using racist language.
The ties to the betting company Bethard are just the latest in a string of controversies that have ensured his name is never far from the headlines.
What Has Happened
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who currently plays for Italian side AC Milan, has teamed up with a betting company called Bethard. The company announced the partnership on their website, stating that it was ‘a very important step’ in the ambition that they have to become one of the leading sports betting brands in Europe. Ibrahimovic, the statement said, was not just an ambassador bur would ‘engage in the ongoing development’ of the company.
Ibrahimovic was referred to as a ‘co-owner’ by the Chief Executive Officer of Bethard Group, Erik Skarp. The company is licensed to operate in Malta, giving it access to a wide market. The partnership with the footballer gets underway immediately, with the plan being that it will ‘evolve over the coming years’. The former Barcelona striker said that this is the first betting company that has ‘triggered’ his interest.
Bethard held a license in the UK but withdrew from the market in 2020, they are however a big and active European brand.
Why It Is A Problem
The link between Ibrahimovic and Bethard has set alarm bells ringing in UEFA head offices. The governing body for football in Europe does not allow players to have any financial interest in betting companies, largely because of the conflict of interest that is evident if they do. The move to work with a gambling company is one that other footballers have taken, but only after they’ve retired from the game.
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, signed a new contract with AC Milan recently that will see him play until at least after he has turned 40-years-old. He also came out of international retirement earlier this year in order to play for the Swedish national side, have been retired for five years. All of which means that he is very much a current footballer engaging in activity with a betting company, which is against UEFA’s ruled and regulations.
A statement from the European body said,
“A Uefa ethics and disciplinary inspector has today been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding a potential violation of the Uefa disciplinary regulations by Mr Zlatan Ibrahimovic for having an alleged financial interest in a betting company.”
Though the word ‘alleged’ might have been necessary for legal reasons, the reality is that the statement about the matter, including words from the footballer himself, have appeared on Bethard’s official company website. There can be no question that the Swede is involved with them, but the big question is what UEFA will do about the matter and what will happen next to the man who has played for the likes of Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United and LA Galaxy during his career.
Why Ibrahimovic Agreed To Partner With Bethard
One of the most interesting questions in the whole affair is why, exactly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic decided to partner up with the firm in the first place. The rules and regulations offered by UEFA regarding footballers and better are clear, so it’s difficult to imagine that his decision to team up with Bethard is anything other than arrogance. Ibrahimovic has a long history of behaving as though he’s better than others in football, including violent outbursts.
In 2015, a female reporter asked the Swede if he and Gerard Piqué, his Barcelona teammate, were involved in a romantic relationship. He replied,
“Come to my house and you’ll see if I’m gay. Bring your sister.”
It was not the only example of sexism displayed by the forward during his career, but was suggestive of his attitude in general. In 2021, he criticised LeBron James, the NBA player, for ‘social and political activism’, in spite of the fact that he engages in similar things himself.
It is, of course, possible that he just wanted to work with a betting firm. Speaking about the matter, he 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 wants to do things differently.”
Football & Betting
The case of Ibrahimovic and Bethard is yet another example of the close ties between football and the betting industry. As long ago as 2013 there were reports about football betting being worth billions, with the relationship between the sport and the world of gambling growing closer ever since. By the end of 2019, close to half of all Premier League clubs had shirts sponsored by betting firms, leading the Labour Party to say that they would ban such sponsorships.
It’s difficult to imagine a world in which the sport of football itself would move to alter its relationship with betting, given the lower leagues in the United Kingdom are currently sponsored by Sky Bet. Whether it be via sponsorship or advertising, there is no question that football has very much hitched its wagon to the world of betting. Even an agreement from betting companies not to advertised ‘whistle-to-whistle’ before the watershed has made little difference.
It is in that environment that Ibrahimovic’s deal with Bethard has been confirmed. It is little wonder that UEFA have reacted with concern over the matter, perhaps fearing that other players may look to do the same as the AC Milan player if they do not clamp down on his behaviour at this juncture. Regardless, the relationship between football and betting has already gone too far and may be past the point of no return.