Due to his continuing relationship with Malta-based operator BetHard, Swedish international footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic could face a three-year suspension from the sport.
According to Swedish outlet Aftonbladet, the AC Milan striker’s company is the fourth largest investor in the online sportsbook – which posted a profit before tax of £25.76 million profit after tax in 2019 – with a total share of 10 percent.
In March 2018, Ibrahimovic was named as BetHard’s global brand ambassador, causing some uproar in England and prompting an official investigation by the Football Association (FA).
The rules of the governing body forbid active players from supporting, consulting with, or being involved with betting operators in any way, triggering an investigation into the relationship between the then-Manchester United striker and the firm.
Ibrahimovic said at the time of his BetHard appointment: ”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.”
According to Aftonbladet, his relationship with BetHard has drawn criticism in his home country of Sweden, where the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) has been tracking the situation for about three years.
The international’s affiliation with BetHard has been blamed for his absence from the national team during the 2019 World Cup in Russia, a competition in which he was widely expected to compete.
In 2018, Hakan Sjostrand, the SFA’s General Secretary, 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.”
Europa League and World Cup Qualifiers
Ibrahimovic has played in a Europa League qualifier against Shamrock Rovers last season and in Sweden’s World Cup qualifier against Georgia just a few months ago.
These activities may be in violation of FIFA and UEFA rules on sports integrity, which forbid players from playing in international tournaments if they have financial ties to gambling companies.
Fines and a potential three-year ban from all football-related activities are possible penalties for breaking these laws.
When asked for comment by the Daily Mail, Erik Sharp, CEO of BetHard, 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.”
However, the SFA’s Sjostrand did not comment on the current situation in 2021, only saying: “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.”