Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s career is at risk as he could face a three-year ban due to his association with a betting company, according to reports in his native Sweden.
Ibrahimovic’s Stockholm-based company Unknown AB owns 10 per cent of the shares of Bethard, a gambling site with offices in Malta.
That’s according to Aftonbladet , while the Swedish Football Association has been aware of the potential problem brewing for three years.
The report claims this is why Ibrahimovic was left out of Sweden’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, when a return to the national side was mooted, despite having retired from international duty two years earlier.
Now it’s claimed that FIFA and UEFA are finally preparing to intervene and make an example of the ex-Manchester United striker.
Neither FIFA nor UEFA allow players who feature in their competitions to have financial interests in gambling companies.
But Ibrahimovic may have breached these rules during AC Milan’s Europa League qualifier with Shamrock Rovers in September 2020 and Sweden’s World Cup qualifier with Georgia last month, after he returned to the national team set-up.
His involvement with Bethard could be punished with a substantial fine and a three-year ban by FIFA which, given the Swede is 39, could spell the end for his career.
UEFA’s punishments are less clear, while Aftonbladet approached both governing bodies for a comment but were refused one.
The Swedish newspaper claims Ibrahimovic’s company is the fourth-largest owner in Bethard, which made a post-tax profit of £25.79million in 2019.
The former Barcelona and Manchester United striker has not hidden his involvement with the gambling company.
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Upon being announced as an ambassador and co-owner of Bethard in 2018, 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.”
In response to the announcement three years ago, Swedish Football Association general secretary Hakan Sjostrand said: “According to FIFA’s regulations and code of ethics, no player may directly or indirectly own shares in betting companies.
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“I stick to the facts and can only account for what applies to all nations and players who will participate in the World Cup.”
Sjostrand was pressed on the issue again this week and responded: “I do not speculate on possible sanctions.
“But of course continue to push for clarity in Fifa’s regulations as there is frankly a lot of ambiguity in how it should be interpreted.”
Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic is out of contract this summer but is expected to sign a new short-term deal with AC Milan, for whom he has scored 17 goals in 25 appearances this season.
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