‘A Threat as Damaging as Doping’

Betting CorruptionThe threat to sporting integrity from players being involved in betting or syndicates seeking to influence the outcome of an event for financial gain has been identified internationally and within Ireland as one of the major issues in sport over the coming years.  Some have highlighted it as being as big a threat to the very heart of sport as doping.

On Thursday, May 9th Sport for Business will host a special Members Round Table on the subject at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.  Leaders from the major sports at risk, player representatives, betting companies and legal experts will gather to share knowledge and learn about aspects of the subject from around the world.

We will have a special guest in Paul Scotney, the former Director of Integrity Services at the British Horseracing Authority and now a freelance sports integrity consultant working with a number of sports providing guidance on betting related issues.

In this first of a two part guest article he outlines outlines what Sports Governing Bodies should be doing to protect their sport from the increased threat to integrity resulting from the increased accessibility of betting platforms brought about by the digital age.

To read this article you must be registered as a member of Sport for Business and logged in.

[ismember]It is difficult to accurately gauge whether betting-related corruption in sport is actually increasing or whether it is the recent media focus on the subject that is leading us to believe that this is the case.

The more pragmatic view is that the problem has got worse with the likely catalyst being the increased popularity of betting on sporting events utilising technological advances that allow real time online betting on a global scale.

Today you can bet on many aspects of an event other than the final winner and this, together with the enhanced liquidity of betting markets and the sheer number of sporting events streamed live on TV as well as the internet, provides added opportunity for potential corrupters.

The threat is global and across the legal, the illegal and the ‘light-touch’ regulated markets and is not just match-fixing, but also spot-fixing and the misuse of inside information.

Where there is the chance of making money people will try to cheat so promoting and upholding integrity is one of the key functions of all Sports Governing Bodies (SGBs).

The whole concept of sport is based upon a fair competition taking place under agreed rules. It is therefore vital for any sport that all involved are genuinely trying to win, and are seen to be doing so; betting-related corruption threatens this principle.

If SGBs are not prepared and ready to react to an incident of corrupt betting then the damage to the reputation of their brand and sport can be severe. SGBs should be alert to the potential problem and, where appropriate, consider creating an anti-corruption strategy.

Complexity

Betting-related corruption is more complex than many envisage. Investigating such cases requires expertise and can be both time consuming and costly. It requires forensic analysis of betting, telephone and financial records as well as consideration of a wide range of other evidence.

Betting related corruption is as big a threat to the reputation of sport as doping and is aggravated by the fact that it can involve participants deliberately trying not to win, which goes to the heart of what sport should represent.

While SGBs do not seek another World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) type structure to address the problem, a greater understanding of the issues involved by sports bodies and governments internationally would be welcomed.

The Parry Review

In 2010 in an effort to achieve a better understanding of, and resolution to, betting related corruption in sport in Great Britain, the then Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, asked Rick Parry, the former Chairman of Liverpool Football Club, to chair a review that included representatives from sports bodies, the Police, the Gambling Commission, the betting industry and sports integrity specialists.

Its purpose was to recommend an integrated strategy for enhancing integrity in sports betting and to propose how the various bodies concerned could work together more effectively. Nearly four years on from the ‘Parry Review,’ its recommendations have seen:

  • The establishment of a Sports Betting Intelligence Unit within the Gambling Commission
  • A recommended Code of Conduct for SGBs which lays down a set of principles for sports to help them deal with betting related corruption.
  • The creation of the Sports Betting Group which comprises of individuals from a number of sports in Great Britain to encourage compliance with the Code for the wellbeing of their sport
  • A Tripartite Forum which brings together representatives from SGBs, the betting industry and the Gambling Commission with the principal objective of regularly assessing how to enhance co-ordination of effort.

The legacy of the Parry Review continues to be positive. Some believe, however, that an opportunity was missed because one of the issues considered by the Review was the creation of a ‘Pan Sports Betting Integrity Unit’; this is fully discussed in Chapter 4 of the Review but has not happened to date; the Sports Betting Intelligence Unit in the Gambling Commission was created instead.

Although that unit has investigative and analytical capabilities, it is by no means a fully resourced integrity unit and exists as a support to SGBs rather than the principal focal point for addressing betting related corruption in sport.

The Gambling Commission has stated that the primary responsibility for dealing with betting-related corruption should rest with SGBs.

The Police have expertise to deal with these issues when a criminal offence is suspected, but there is clear reluctance from the police service to become involved in ‘sporting offences’ unless wider serious criminality is involved.

In the second part of this guest article on Friday, we will highlight the six key strategic areas that Governing Bodies need to be aware of and to implement in order to address the threat of betting related corruption in sport.[/ismember]

To see more Sport for Business analysis of betting click here.

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