Zlatan Ibrahimovic could face a three-year ban – and perhaps an early end to his football career – because of his partnership with a Malta-based betting company, according to reports coming out of his native Sweden.
The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet state that through his company Unknown AB, Sweden and AC Milan striker Ibrahimovic owns 10 per cent of the shares of Bethard, a gambling site with offices registered in Malta.
The report also details that the Swedish Football Association have been aware of the problem for three years and it is the reason the talismanic forward wasn’t called up for the 2018 World Cup, though he did retire from international football in 2016 until returning last month.
His participation in the company could reportedly land him with a three-year ban or a hefty fine, in an affair which is being closely followed by both FIFA and UEFA.
FIFA and UEFA do not allow players participating in their competitions to have financial interests in gambling companies.
The report adds that Ibrahimovic’s company is the fourth largest owner in Bethard, which according to the latest available annual report in 2019 made a profit after tax of £25.79m.
It details that Ibrahimovic may have violated FIFA’s rules during March’s World Cup qualifier against Georgia and in the Europa League qualifier against Shamrock Rovers in September 2020.
Ibrahimovic was announced as an ambassador and co-owner of Bethard in 2018, and 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’.
FIFA’s ethical regulations state that anyone who violates their rules will be punished by a fine and a possible suspension from all football-related activities for a maximum of three years, while UEFA’s regulations are less clear when it comes to punishment.
Ibrahimovic turns 40 in October and would almost certainly be forced to retire if he was handed the maximum ban of three years.
When the story originally came to light in March 2018, general secretary of the Swedish Football Association Hakan Sjjstrand said: ‘According to FIFA’s regulations and code of ethics, no player may directly or indirectly own shares in betting companies.
‘I stick to the facts and can only account for what applies to all nations and players who will participate in the World Cup.’
When approached this week about Ibrahimovic’s return to the national team and therefore possible punishment in this case, Sjostrand said: ‘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.’
In an email, Bethard CEO Erik Sharp said: ‘These are questions that should be asked to FIFA.
‘We have an agreement with Zlatan that we follow and if problems arise, we will handle it together with him.’
FIFA and UEFA refused to comment to Aftonbladet, who have also approached Ibrahimovic’s representatives for comment. Sportsmail has contacted Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, for comment.
The news story comes as the 39-year-old is set to extend his career by another year, with a new contract at AC Milan until June 2022 likely to be signed in the coming days.
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Ibrahimovic was also in hot water this week after images of an alleged Covid-19 breach in a restaurant in Lombardy emerged, though his entourage say it was a ‘work meeting.’
Source: All Football