A CONTEXT OF SCANDALS AND FRAUD
2011 was a year of unprecedented turmoil in the world of sport in the face of the growing threat presented by criminal organisations that manipulate sports events to enrich themselves through sports betting systems.
The very essence of sport is under threat in the current climate of scandals, fraud, rumours and judicial investigations in a wide range of disciplines across many countries. The glorious uncertainty of sports competitions and the honesty and upright image of athletes are popular and motivational values that risk being undermined unless serious measures are taken to bring corruption-related conduct to an end.
The study of a number of instances of corruption in sport that have come to light in recent years has enabled a global typology of the phenomenon of corruption in sport to be produced to help understand the modus operandi of corruptors and the vulnerabilities inherent in sport.
Corruption linked to sports betting involves teams or players who cheat to lose. The financial environment of some sports circuits - lower leagues, championships in countries that are economically less well-developed and/or disciplines receiving less media coverage - can encourage a sportsperson or manager to agree to fix a match, thereby earning more in one fell swoop than they would otherwise in an entire season.
THE GROWING INVOLVEMENT OF CRIMINAL ORGANISATIONS
The increasingly frequent presence of transnational criminal organisations in instances of corruption in sport is a major concern. These organisations often cultivate a diversified international aspect in their legal and illegal activities and modes of operating. They have extremely extensive resources and take advantage of the vulnerability of the world of sport and the lack of international cooperation between the different public authorities. It is technically easy and highly profitable for a criminal organisation to acquire a club for illicit purposes, to approach an athlete or even organise competitions or matches themselves with the sole aim of rigging them.
THE IMPACT AND ROLE OF GLOBALISATION
In parallel, the globalisation of the sports betting market generates specific risks that threaten the integrity of sport. Sports betting has now become an economic activity whose impact cannot be ignored. It is estimated that by the end of 2011, sports betting as a whole was generating bets of close to €200 billion per year.
Economic and financial globalisation and the advent of Internet betting have helped to decompartmentalise the Asian and European markets, and have enabled the betting offering to proliferate worldwide. There is fierce competition between online betting sites, resulting in increasingly attractive and complex betting formulae that provide inspiration for strategies to corrupt sport. These are all windows of opportunity for criminals who have the resources to predetermine the score of a sports match, and thus make substantial profits.
EVERYBODY IS CONCERNED
The public authorities are concerned by the risk of sport being penetrated by those criminal organisations that use it to launder the fruits of their activities with virtual impunity. Concern for public order is combined with the need to preserve the image and place of sport in society as a force for social cohesion and education for different generations.
From the point of view of the betting operators, who are sometimes swindled by corruptors placing fraudulent bets on their sites, the fight against fraud in sport is a necessity to safeguard their economic business and not become a de facto accomplice in criminal activities.
Of concern to the world of sport is the fact that, particularly in Asia, the spread of corruption and match rigging have caused the public to lose interest in some sports, which could lead to the death of clubs and competitions as a result of the defection of sponsors and the media.
THE NEED TO ENHANCE INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Various programmes and resources are already in place to combat corruption in sport at grassroots level and limit the appeal of sports betting for criminals. Sportspeople however are still not aware enough, and fraud in sport has yet to be criminalised across the legislations. Highly efficient surveillance systems do exist for sports betting, but they are nevertheless not sufficient to provide a full understanding of the phenomenon in its entirety. Generally speaking, cooperation between the betting operators, public authorities and the world of sport must be increased and institutionalised.
The recommendations expressly focus on establishing an international framework to strengthen the fight against corruption in sport. In fact, given the transnational concepts involved, international coordination interfaces are essential between all stakeholders.
The complete study can be downloaded here.
This study was translated with the support of SportAccord.