The issue of corruption specifically related to sports betting has been highly publicised over the last few years through an unfortunate increasing number of proven match-fixing cases and suspicious affairs as well as academic studies, initiatives, conferences and workshops on the issue. The rapid transformation and constant evolution of betting markets, especially unregulated illegal markets; the infiltration of criminal or irregular activities and individuals who attempt to influence or ‘fix’ the course of a sporting event often for financial gain, is of growing concern for both sports governing bodies and public authorities. Recognition is increasingly made of the importance of protecting the integrity of sport.
Protecting the integrity of the Olympic Games
The important reinforcement of measures taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the London 2012 Olympics is an illustration of such growing concern. A firm stance has been taken to prevent and fight against match-fixing attempts during the competitions and therefore has significantly widened the scope of means and actionsat the disposal of the IOC, athletes and officials.
Prior to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the IOC established a betting monitoring system to detect suspicious volumes and odds on the Olympic competitions and introduced in its Code of Ethics in 2006 a prohibition on being involved in betting activities.
In preparation for the 2012 Games, as reflection of the growing awareness of the issue amongst the sports movement, measures have been considerably reinforced. Athletes must now commit to renounce on any betting activity on the Olympics and to report any attempt or suspicion to fix an event through a formal individual contract taken during the accreditation process. Educational training sessions will be implemented in the Olympic village and tools such as a hotline and email address will be made available.
Measures are notably strengthened through close cooperation and coordination with other stakeholders, such as the UK Gambling Commission to support monitoring of betting activities, and the British police forces and Interpol to detect any doubtful presence in the immediate environment of the athletes and competitions.
The Olympics are consensually considered as less vulnerable to attempts of match-fixing than other sporting events. This statement is made firstly because of the unique dimension of the Games for any athlete taking part, and hence little propensity to involve in a counter-performance. A further explanation is the low level of betting volumes characterising the Olympiads to date.
Nevertheless, the rapidly changing nature and size of the betting markets together with the growing involvement of organised crime searching new opportunities makes it uncertain whether the Games are (still) immune to such manipulations. Hence the importance of additional means envisioned in London.
Dealing with a complex and multidimensional threat: a multi-level involvement
Effervescence and turmoil have been very high recently from various institutions. Besides sports authorities, there is a whole range of stakeholders that are now involved in the fight against match-fixing, particularly at the European level, including the European Union and Council of Europe.
Online sports’ betting has considerably developed in recent years, with activities and control now largely going beyond national boundaries. Considering the transnational dimensions at stake and the various versions of betting regulations that coexist worldwide, the challenge is immensely complex. Another transnational paradigm relates to the way fixers set their manipulations, with a growing penetration of organised crime having intermediaries in various countries, which complicate attempts of investigation and pursuing. The sports movement recognises the importance of having support from public authorities when it comes to facing criminal threats. There is a need of coordination between national public authorities to allow transnational police and justice to effectively function. Such an assessment led the European Commission to support a study on existing legal provisions within EU Member States to deal with match-fixing sports fraud. Moreover, the Council of Europe, through the Enlarged Partial Agreement in Sport, is currently working on a specific international convention addressing the promotion of the integrity of sport against manipulation of results.
Sports betting laws and regulations vary from country to country and state to state; the sports movement can play a role in harmonising approaches by being more involved in and consulted on activities at stake. Sports events organisers should at least be aware of bets placed on their competitions to measure risks and opportunities.
Awareness is gradually increasing amongst international sports federations about the gravity of the problem and the importance of safeguarding their sports from irregular and illegal betting activities. A high degree of harmonisation and collaboration amongst sports organisations is required to combat this global scourge. SportAccord is deeply involved in this process and has developed a Global Programme to Stop Match-fixing in Sport specifically to assist and guide federations, athletes and officials to stand true to the values of their sport. The SportAccord President recently described his vision in an article published this month in the French review of Geopolitics “Politique internationale”. International federations have to play a role in establishing regulations with regards to betting in their discipline and developing educational programmes and integrity watchdogs.
Access SportAccord’s Global Programme to Stop Match-Fixing in Sport: http://integrity.sportaccord.com/en/
For further information: Sarah Lacarriere, Integrity Officer, Sports’ Integrity Unit: email@example.com