Weekly integrity in sport update from INTERPOL 25-31 January 2016

published on 02 February 2016

In this week's media recap we see, once again, that tennis and cricket remain in the news. Current investigations are presently under way with tennis in New Zealand and cricket in South Africa. In both these current investigations players involved in alleged match fixing have been identified.

A good practice is also been reported on, with the French government launching a new watchdog to monitor online betting to combat match-fixing. This watchdog involves the creation of a coordination unit to inform and fight against the problem under the presidency of a director of Sport, as well as a unit for surveillance of the French betting market.

 

CURRENT INVESTIGATION

New Zealand

Match-fixing has been suspected in at least four matches played at New Zealand's premier tennis tournament over the past five years. The Herald can reveal one match played at the Heineken Open in 2011, one in 2012 and two in 2014 have caught the eye of those investigating suspicious betting patterns on the ATP Tour. One player who is understood to have been "red-flagged" to betting and tennis authorities was involved in two of the questionable matches. Tournament director for the 2011 and 2012 editions, Richard Palmer, yesterday said that while he had no knowledge of anything untoward in the particular matches identified and can "barely recall" the player supposedly involved twice, players were often accused of tanking - the practice of losing on purpose - at the Auckland tournament.

Source: Niall Anderson, Dylan Cleaver, "Revealed: Match-fixing suspected at NZ tennis tournaments", 28 January 2016, New Zealand Herald ,https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11580900

South Africa

JOHANNESBURG – Former Proteas cricketer Gulam Bodi could face criminal charges as his case of match-fixing is handed over to the SA Police Service (SAPS). The Cricket SA (CSA) board, which met on Friday, released a statement saying the SAPS would deal with any criminal charges. CSA on Monday banned Bodi, 37, from the game for 20 years after finding him guilty of trying to fix matches in the domestic RAM SLAM T20 tournament last year. “The board received an update on the corruption matter and noted that the matter had been reported last year by CSA to the relevant crime unit of the SAPS, which will now deal with any criminal aspects of the investigation,” said CSA. “The board is satisfied with the progress that has been made so far and with the lengthy ban that was imposed on Mr Bodi,” said board Chairman Chris Nenzani. “We will strongly uphold our stance of zero tolerance on any corruption matter. The internal investigation under the CSA Anti-Corruption Code continues and we are confident that our experienced investigative team will leave no stone unturned.

Source: AP, "'Match-fixer' Bodi to answer to the police ", 30 January 2016, Enca Africa News, https://www.enca.com/sport/cricket/match-fixer-bodi-answer-police

 

GOOD PRACTICE

France

The French government has launched a new watchdog to monitor online betting in a bid to combat match-fixing, Sports Minister Thierry Braillard announced on Friday (AEDT). The body will allow for an exchange of information between the different authorities regulating online betting at national and international level along with sports federations and betting operators. "This platform bringing together all stakeholders will allow us to better arm ourselves against the scourge that is the manipulation of sports competitions," said Braillard. It involves the creation of a co-ordination unit to inform and fight against the problem under the presidency of a director of sport, as well as a unit for surveillance of the French market. The initiative is linked to the Council of Europe's International Convention for the fight against corruption in sport, which was signed by France in October 2014. Its ratification by member states came up against the non-signature of Malta, the home of many betting operators. The new French initiative comes just ten days after a bombshell report alleging widespread match-fixing in tennis. Tennis's governing bodies announced at the Australian Open on Wednesday an independent review into the tennis anti-corruption program. Tennis Integrity Unit chairman Phillip Brook expressed concern about the abundance of varied betting options on a given tennis match. He questioned the appropriateness of in-play betting and singled out the French authorities for banning it.

Source: AP, "French government launches online betting watchdog to combat match-fixing", 28 January 2016, Abc.net News, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-29/france-launches-online-betting-watchdog/7123398

ODDS AND ENDS

Canada

In interviews with the Toronto Star, investigators confirm the so-called “gentleman’s sport” has a systemic problem. It was three hot seats for the men in suits. Chris Kermode, the head of the Association of Tennis Professionals, along with his counterparts from the International Tennis Federation and Wimbledon — arguably the three most powerful tennis executives in the world — sat down to face the press about the allegations of widespread match-fixing in their sport. The story couldn’t have broken at a worse time: The Australian Open, the first of tennis’ four Grand Slams, was just getting underway, and the focus should have been on the sparkling play as another season began. Instead, many were wondering which athletes weren’t playing fair. “It has been hard on the Australian Open, no question about it,” Kermode said. “We need to address the perception, public confidence. We don’t have anything to hide at all.” Kermode and other tennis officials are battling to save the credibility of their sport after an investigation by the BBC and Buzzfeed revealed evidence of match-fixing. In interviews with the Toronto Star, investigators confirm the so-called “gentleman’s sport” has a systemic problem.“If you came up with a sport to corrupt, you couldn’t do any better than tennis,” one senior investigator said. “It is the easiest game in the world to fix.” As an individual game, fixing is simple compared to team sports; and the economics of the sport — not everyone makes a living wage — can leave some athletes vulnerable to corruption, investigators say. “The key thing that drives match-fixing is the culture of ‘tanking,’ ” said Richard Ings, a former high-level tennis umpire and ATP executive. “Everyone knows about it inside tennis.” “Tanking is a huge issue in tennis,” Mark Phillips, a match-fixing investigator with a long experience both in horse racing and tennis, agreed. He said tanking has been common in tennis at least back to the 1980s, with players deliberately under-performing for reasons as varied as scheduling, avoiding injury or giving a game to a fellow-professional in front of their home crowd. The life of a tennis professional can be difficult and costly. A recent study for the International Tennis Federation estimated only 10 per cent of the players on tour can actually cover their costs, which can include travel, coaching, support and accommodation, for example.

Source: Declan Hill, "Match fixing in tennis has reached ‘shocking’ levels say officials", 30 January 2016, Toronto Star, https://www.thestar.com/sports/tennis/2016/01/30/match-fixing-in-tennis-has-reached-shocking-levels-say-officials.html

Switzerland

As online gambling rises, UN and Olympic officials rush to prevent match-fixing by betting syndicates. Athletes who are clean deserve better protection from the corruption of gamblers. Internet gambling on big sports, such as the Super Bowl and World Cup, has grown so fast in recent years – reaching an estimated $1 trillion a year – that even the United Nations is now worried. The UN arm that deals with organized crime plans to issue a “handbook” soon on how sports governing bodies can protect the integrity of athletes. The UN’s biggest concern: match-fixing. The handbook will be timely for at least one sport, professional tennis. The sport represents about a quarter of global online sports betting. It is also the third most vulnerable sport for gambling-related manipulation of matches, says the International Centre for Sport Security. Indeed, an investigation by journalists at the BBC and BuzzFeed claims at least 28 top-level players were implicated in deliberately losing matches to help gambling syndicates but were not punished. Tennis authorities reject the claim. They point to the success of their Tennis Integrity Unit, which was set up in 2008, in catching a number of players who have thrown matches. And the Association of Tennis Professionals runs a “university” for would-be professionals that includes training on how not to be corrupted. Sports gambling also worries the International Olympic Committee. It sees the effects of betting as more pervasive than doping. In a January meeting, the IOC issued a “code” of guidelines for athletic associations aimed at preventing match-fixing and other manipulations of sports. The body’s president, Thomas Bach, says clean athletes should not “see the finger of suspicion pointing at them.” This global concern is also reflected in the United States, where at least 20 states are taking action against fantasy sports companies such as DraftKings. While it is unlikely a football team at the Super Bowl will be influenced by the billions in bets placed on the game, it is worrisome that the National Football League now sells its sports data for the benefit of gambling sites. Worldwide, betting on sports may soon draw more revenue than ticket sales and advertising for big-time sports, if it hasn’t already. Sports officials are rushing to catch up with this trend by beefing up their “integrity units.” But so far it is not fast enough for the IOC and UN. Athletes who would not think of purposely losing a game deserve a shield from those who see sports as merely a game of chance and a means to make money.

Source: AP, "Why even the Super Bowl needs a gambling shield ", 25 January 2016, CS Monitor, https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2016/0125/Why-even-the-Super-Bowl-needs-a-gambling-shield

 

SENTENCES/SANCTIONS

Australia

SYDNEY – Allegations of corruption in world tennis were reignited on Monday when a former Australian professional tennis player pleaded guilty to match-fixing just hours after a top global bookmaker suspended betting on a suspicious match at the Australian Open. The case against former 187-ranked player Nick Lindahl reached court after reports surfaced last week that tennis authorities had failed to deal with widespread match-fixing, marring the opening of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. Lindahl pleaded guilty in a Sydney court to one charge related to match-fixing in a minor 2013 tournament but will contest a separate evidence-tampering charge on technical grounds. Two other charges were dropped by prosecutors after the guilty plea. Prosecutor Kate Young told the court that in September 2013, when playing at the Toowoomba Futures Tournament, Lindahl offered to intentionally lose a match to a lower-ranked player and informed an associate so that he could wager against him. A transcript of telephone calls intercepted by police after the match and read in court appeared to show Lindahl coaching an associate on how to hide evidence from investigators and admitting to doing the same himself. “Just get rid of it … just get rid of everything,” Lindahl said in the transcript, which was read by Young. Lindahl, who was arrested a year ago, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on the charge to which he pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on April 15. His lawyer, Troy Edwards, said the timing of the case coming to court amid a blaze of publicity about suspected match fixing and the Australian Open tournament was unfortunate.

Source: Matt Siegel, "Match-fixing concerns return as former player pleads guilty", 25 January 2016, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/sport/3134147-former-player-pleads-guilty-to-match-fixing-in-australian-court/

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