English match-fixing scandals – the 10 stand out issues - Part 2

Published 02 January 2014 | Authored by: Kevin Carpenter

In this second and final part of his latest blog Kevin Carpenter discusses the remaining 5 issues he believes are important that have stemmed from the recent integrity scandals in English football.

 

6.    Acknowledging the full extent of the problem

Despite what has been uncovered in England the past few weeks, the majority of sports administrators in this country still claim there is not a widespread serious issue at hand here, which in my opinion could not be further from the truth. I fully understand why sport chooses an approach of negligence, even wilful blindness, to match-fixing and sports betting integrity because if you go looking for trouble, in this case, you are almost certainly going to find it. There is a fear from sports administrators that supporters, the general public, broadcasters and commercial partners would lose faith in the sport and withdraw their financial backing.

I am not claiming this is a uniquely British attitude to match-fixing because it isn’t, with many other jurisdictions preferring the “ignorance is bliss” approach for the same reasons. However what concerns me is that despite Britain’s waning influence on the world sporting stage many countries still look to us, and especially The Football Association, for leadership and guidance.

However, much like with cycling, it will come to a point with football worldwide where associations cannot any longer use this as an excuse not to tackle the problem, or indeed acknowledge it exists. That day, I fear, is not too far away.

 

7.    Sport trying to run before it can walk

One of the most hotly debated (and in my opinion tiresome) discussions when match-fixing is raised is, should we have a WADA-type body to tackle the problem? I view this as a situation where sport is trying to run before it can walk. Given what I said in point 6 above, we are still very much in the awareness-raising phase. From some of the aforementioned comments in the media from various stakeholders in sport in recent weeks, it is clear that there is a great deal of awareness raising and education yet to be done. For instance, explaining the way in which sports gambling markets work worldwide and looking to understand better why people chose to fix, as there are undoubtedly reasons other than just money in some cases.

Linking back to point 6 again, I equate this to trying to deal with and rehabilitate somebody who has addiction problems. Until sport admits there is a problem, and the scale of it, it will not be able to move forward to more advanced solutions.

 

8.    Sponsors have to speak out

It has been a source of great frustration across the sporting word whenever integrity scandals are uncovered that commercial sponsors and other financial backers do not take more of a stand and pressure administrators to clean up their sport. This has been seen very recently in cricket regarding Pepsi and the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, where Pepsi have said they will continue to support the tournament despite significant unresolved problems regarding corruption, match-fixing and governance.  

During the entire English crisis we have not heard a peep from any of the multitude of sponsors in football for example. They should be demanding publicly that action is taken within a defined period of time, whilst simultaneously stating that they will stand by and support the football bodies during this process therefore showing confidence and solidarity with the sport to maintain its reputation.

 

9.    Importance of whistleblowing mechanisms

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller brought together a number of important sport administrators to discuss the English scandals. One of the good things to come out of that meeting was that the Secretary of State was fully supportive of the urgent need for confidential and anonymous whistleblowing procedures to be put in place for all sports in England. This is long overdue.  

Sports administrators across the world have to recognise that, no matter how well intentioned they are in setting up their own whistleblowing mechanisms within their particular sport, until such mechanisms become truly independent, be that a telephone line, email and/or a mobile app as has been unveiled recently in Finland, then participants in that sport will not report corrupt approaches because they often (legitimately) do not trust the governance structures within sport.  

The British Horseracing Authority recognised this when engaging Crimestoppers to set up their own-branded whistleblowing mechanism some years ago “RaceStraight”. The South Africa Football Association have taken the same step following the embarrassment they suffered regarding match-fixing prior to the 2010 World Cup (discussed in Part 1) and have now set-up an independent hotline through an organisation called "Whistle Blowers" which any participant can use should they have any suspicions or information relating to match-fixing.  

 

10.    Match-fixing and criminal laws

Although in point 9 above I praised the Secretary of State, I cannot say the same of her views regarding the criminal laws currently in place in the UK often used in relation to match-fixing offences. Although there is a specific offence of 'cheating at gambling' in the Gambling Act 2005, this is actually very narrow in scope and application. Furthermore, in the English scandals it appears charges have been brought under the headings of conspiracy, which is a common law offence, and the statutory offences found under the Fraud Act 2006 and the Bribery Act 2010. However, none of these really sit comfortably with the unique offence of match-fixing. Those headings of charge are creatures of corporate fraud. Therefore it is my strongly held opinion that it is necessary for a specific new specific criminal offence of match-fixing to be included in the UK criminal regime.  

This is also true of many other jurisdictions across the world, which is where the Council of Europe’s Convention Against the Manipulation of Sports Competitions could be important when it is ratified next year as it will contain provisions for governments to use in formulating a specific criminal match-fixing offence.

That is only an overview of some of the headline issues that have arisen out of the English match-fixing scandals. I, and many of you reading this, will be waiting with great interest to see how both the sporting and criminal trials proceed in England in the coming months.

For those involved in the anti-match-fixing industry it is going to be a busy 12 months ahead.

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About the Author

Kevin Carpenter

Kevin Carpenter

Kevin is a advisor and member of the editorial board for LawInSport, having previously acted as editor. In his day-to-day work he has two roles: as the Principal for his own consultancy business Captivate Legal & Sports Solutions, and Special Counsel for Sports Integrity at leading global sports technology and data company Genius Sports.

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