At the age of 39, a three-year ban would be akin to a retirement order for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But that’s the punishment that could be awaiting the AC Milan striker after the extent of his involvement in BetHard, an online casino and sportsbook brand, was revealed.
According to Calcio Mercato, both UEFA and FIFA are investigating claims that Zlatan has breached a code of ethics that prevents footballers from having a financial interest in gambling firms. The Swede owns shares in the company Unknown AB, who in turn have a 10% holding in BetHard, making them the fourth largest shareholder.
After he was probed for more details, the CEO of BetHard – Erik Sharp – confirmed that Zlatan was a shareholder of Gameday Group PLC, the holding company for the betting brand.
It has been reported in another Italian publication, Sempre Milan, that Zlatan could be banned for three years from all tournaments under the UEFA and FIFA jurisdiction, which would include Serie A, the Champions League and Euro 2021 – for which the striker has come out of international retirement.
The best-case scenario for Zlatan, if found guilty, would be a fine of €100k.
Meanwhile in his native Sweden, the newspaper Aftonbladet is reporting that the Swedish Football Association have known about the legal issue for years, and that Zlatan wasn’t called up for their World Cup squad in 2018 due to concerns that FIFA would throw them out of the tournament.
When revealed as BetHard’s brand ambassador in 2018, Zlatan commented:
“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 hometown and they are true challengers who really wants to do things differently.”
In Trying Times
To coincide with Zlatan coming on board as an ambassador, BetHard secured a licence from the UK Gambling Commission in 2018.
Offering sports betting, casino and live casino games, BetHard were expected to make waves on the back of Zlatan’s popularity – he had only just left Manchester United at the time.
However, it wasn’t long before BetHard ran into problems, and by the summer of 2020 the Malta-based firm announced that they were closing their UK operation with almost immediate effect. A representative of the firm claimed they were consolidating their efforts in ‘profitable markets’ instead.
That was thought to be a dig at the increasing tax contributions that offshore firms were being forced to make by the UK government, with the likes of Royal Panda, ComeOn and 188BET also leaving the UK market around that time.
Today, BetHard are still going and they have a customer base across Scandinavia as well as in Ireland, Spain and Malta.
However, they might have to face up to a future without their charismatic ambassador if UEFA and FIFA have their way….