Francesco Baranka – Working at the Football Federation of Ukraine is a big challenge
How long ago was it that you received the offer to become the Chairman of the Committee for Ethics and Fair Play at the Football Federation of Ukraine?
The offer came in about two or three weeks ago directly from Mr Pavelko. I made my decision very quickly and we decided to start.
What was your initial reaction to the proposal?
Of course I had to think about it but I immediately thought of the FFU’s attitude to this problem. I was sure about the offer and, additionally, I trust the people at the federation and hope they trust me. The offer was a pleasant surprise and, as I am convinced that the FFU takes a very serious stance against match fixing, I agreed.
How are you going to combine your work at Federbet with this role in the FFU?
These are two different things. My role at the FFU is more personal and Federbet is not directly related to my work there. I will ask for help from everyone who is able to and develop the partnership between the FFU and UEFA. I will continue my work at Federbet and hope that it does not interfere.
Will you bring your resources from Federbet to the FFU?
I will use all possible resources and cooperating with Federbet is no exception. Additionally, Federbet and the FFU have worked together before by sending each other reports. I can ask for help from my Federbet colleagues at any time. This cooperation will continue, but I will also bring new resources to my new role in Ukraine, using all of my experience.
Who will be on your team?
I will present a list of people shortly. My team will consist of Ukrainian and Italian experts as well as professionals from other countries. I am also hoping to involve Ukrainian journalists, lawyers, prosecutors and police. I want this committee to be effective and so members of it should be real experts on the matter. There is a lot of work to be done but it is necessary.
How often do you plan to visit Ukraine and do you plan to explore the county more as a whole?
Figures do not have a nationality. There is no need to study the county in detail itself as I am already familiar with the problem of match-fixing in Ukraine. I have been to Ukraine numerous times in the past, especially in ‘hot’ periods when there were many suspicious matches. Now I want to dive into the deep end and study it thoroughly. Although I will require some assistance, especially at first.
What will be your initial priorities in your new position?
Firstly I will form my team and research everything about football in Ukraine – men’s and women’s football, futsal, and beach soccer. I will not only speak with the players and staff, but also the owners of the teams. I want to explain to everyone what the problem is and give everybody an idea of the changes that will be occurring.
What are the main obstacles in your way?
I believe that the work itself is a huge challenge which I am desperate to take on and I look forward to cooperating with everybody involved. It will be hard work but I believe that if the Federation, together with Mr Pavelko, keep up their positive attitude towards the problem and we combine our efforts then we will be able to combat it.
Actually, nothing catastrophic is happening. Ukraine is the first country to make changes and recognise the problem with match-fixing and it can also be the first country to win the fight against it. Of that I am sure.
Will you cooperate with Igor Kochetov, your predecessor?
He was doing invaluable work before my arrival and I will not be able to continue without his advice. I will ask him lots of questions and share my feelings with him. I want to work with him because he has a lot of experience and started a lot of good work. Therefore we will cooperate fully.
I am going to continue the investigations which were started before my arrival. I plan to continue down the same route and Kochetov’s role cannot be underestimated.
So this means all the currently open investigations will continue?
That’s right, nothing will be forgotten about. There are many different open cases which are yet to discuss but we will work on them.
However, I always think that it is more important and better to not just have a lot of investigations but also to be wary of future dangers. We not only have to think about and investigate what has happened in the past but also think about the future. Thinking about the past and not worrying about the future would be a big mistake.
What are the problems which the Ukrainians need to solve in order to overcome the problem of match-fixing?
Believe me, the problem with match-fixing is not only in Ukraine. Yesterday I spoke with a friend of mine who wrote a long article about match-fixing in Canada. It is the country with the lowest level of corruption in the world but this problem with fixed football matches is worldwide.
The difference between Ukraine and other countries is that in Ukraine they are at least talking about this problem; you, journalists, the FFU and fans are showing they care and want to try and fight it.
I do not think that the situation in Ukraine is hopeless. The problem is not just Ukrainian, but global. Footballers who play in these matches do not understand the overall process and that they are constantly being watched.
The situation has changed in recent years as before even to talk about this situation was impossible. Previously, everybody was trying to hide the problem and brush it under the carpet. Recognition of the problem is a very, very important step.
In general, the task is not easy and there is a lot of work to be done but I am optimistic and confident that we will be able to accomplish it. The problem of match-fixing applies not to football, in Russia or other European countries, and so we need to work transparently in order to overcome it.
It is great that you are optimistic and we all hope that you will be as open as possible because, in Ukraine, many people think that the Federation takes an interest in these matches.
I always try to be as open as possible to you and your colleagues. I want to assure you that, if the FFU was interested in such matches, I would not have been invited, believe me!
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