Betting on sport 2The threat to sport via the damage to reputation caused by corruption was the subject of a special Sport for Business Members’ Round Table hosted at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on May 9th.
Our group was made up of leading sporting administrators, player representative groups, betting companies, regulators and legal experts.  We were joined for a presentation on the international situation by Paul Scotney of Sports Integrity Services who travelled over as our guest and will feature in an interview in this weekend’s Sunday Independent newspaper. 
The discussion was frank and open, addressing the present day threat level within Irish sport and considering ways in which Ireland and Irish sport may seek to take a lead at EU and international level in procedures that will be preventative in nature and that which could have long term benefit for integrity and reputation.
We have distilled the discussion down to ten key take away points and also highlighted two initiatives which we will undertake in the coming months to see what may be possible in this area of international concern.
To read our ten take aways from Sport for Business – Threats to Sporting Integrity you must be registered as a Member and logged in.
[ismember]Ten Take Aways from Sport for Business – Threats to Sporting Integrity …
1. The threat to sporting integrity through financial corruption is international in nature with betting corruption the most obvious but not the only form.  The threat to integrity and reputation in Ireland is low to medium at present but cannot be left to drift without being tackled.
2. The damage caused can have a major impact on an individual sport and see the loss of fans and sponsors.  Domestic soccer in large areas of the far east is played out in front of sparse audiences and there is limited public interest because of the feeling that games are not ‘straight’. Snooker is a sport which has shown how loss of confidence can bring it to its knees though the restoration of that confidence is possible if action is taken.
3. On a human level the dangers for participants at a level likely to draw an audience are very apparent.  In some sports where counselling for personal issues is offered to players, the incidence of gambling as the central issue of concern, even leaving aside the possibility of corruption, is as high as 33%.
4. Betting organisations are for the most part willing to fully cooperate with sporting and regulatory authorities but concern was expressed that the danger to reputation exists so long as this is not universal.  One of the large betting organisations present at the Round Table revealed that they had signed 56 international memoranda of understanding with sporting bodies.
5. In contrast to the international cooperation on anti doping, there is a distinct lack of synergy and shared approach to financial corruption.  This is despite the fact that while doping in any form is abhorrent, the intention of the cheat is at least to win.  In financial cases the opposite is the case which cuts even closer to the heart of what sport is all about.
6. Internationally Cricket and Horse Racing are the two sports that have shown the greatest determination to act in the face of real and potential threats.  They are the only sports to have full blown integrity units with the power to investigate and impose effective sanction on a consistent basis.  They are also the most advanced in terms of education of participants and prevention of access at the point of competition to the physical temptation of unfettered communication with the outside world.
7. Threat based approach using sanction without proper education is neither as effective as it can be in countering the threat nor as beneficial for the sport and its participants as an approach based on education from a very early stage in a manner which is communicated in simple easily grasped terms.  One international sport has made moves towards education but a reading of the entire programme online would take over an hour and it is felt that this is unlikely to appeal to the intended audience.
8. The European Union is giving high priority to the question of cheating in sport in all its forms.  Different jurisdictions are introducing legislation in various forms either based on a notion of banning cheating in sport, as is the case in Russia, but which is hard to define, or cheating through betting which has been in place in Britain since 2007 but through which it is difficult to secure a meaningful conviction.
9. The funding of a proper integrity approach is not cheap.  The rehabilitation costs for an individual affected by gambling issues, and therefore seen as more likely to be vulnerable to corruption can be as high as €15,000.  The UK Government contributes £6 million per annum to the fight against anti doping.  The approach here and further afield needs to be done on a tripartite basis between sport, government and the betting industry who each share either an obligation or a commercial imperative towards maintaining integrity.
10. There is a clear lack of cohesion compared to other areas of real or perceived risk but the pace of technology change and access to betting related influence is escalating at such a pace that this must change.
This is an international issue and there is a temptation to sit back and wait for developments in other better funded and more at risk areas of the world.  
The counter argument is that with sport as such an international barometer of trust and engagement that to look to take a lead, even through small initial steps, could have an exponential benefit for Ireland in terms of those same key areas.
We have identified two key areas where those small steps might be planned and executed over the coming months.
1. Sport for Business will convene a meeting of interested sports governing bodies, working in conjunction with a parent organisation such as the Irish Sports Council, and bringing in business with expertise that could be valuable, to identify a common code of best practice that can apply across Irish sport and be promoted internationally.
2. Sport for Business will offer assistance to sports and player representative bodies in developing simple communication channels, ideally using senior peers, to get across the message to entrants to a sport of the issues they may face actively promote the best of these to be adopted across codes.[/ismember]
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