No gambling permitted: how sports governing bodies regulate betting by athletes and "Connected Persons"

Published 22 April 2016 | Authored by: Kevin Carpenter

With the recent investigation into doping and corruption in athletics,1 allegations about match-fixing in tennis,2 the continuing corruption scandal in football,3 and now the Panama leaks leading to raids at UEFA,4 it is arguable that the integrity of sport has never been so undermined and under attack at any time in history.

In the same period there have been numerous instances around the world of players, coaches and other persons with a direct or indirect connection to sport (referred to collectively in this blog as “participants”) being found to have bet on their own sport and being sanctioned.

This blog examines the nature and extent of this problem and explains how it is currently being dealt with by sports governing bodies (SGBs). It also proposes that, while attracting little media attention, the issue needs to be monitored and tackled with the same vigour as the high profile scandals above.

 

Cases in 2015 and 2016

To put the topic in context, key recent cases include:

  • Philip Blake – Coach – Rugby Union

Philip Blake (at the relevant time) the defence coach of English Premiership rugby union club Leicester Tigers RFC was given a six-month global suspension and fined for betting on his own team.5

Of interest from this ruling was that four of the bets made by Mr Blake in breach of the applicable regulations, placed via a self-service betting terminal in a casino, were handicap/spread bets. This means that Mr Blake would still win his bet even if the team who employed him as a coach lost by a certain margin.

The Rugby Football Union were fortunate that Mr Blake was caught. This was only due to a casino employee, who audited the machines and, thinking it was unusual such amounts had been bet on rugby, noticed the same betting pattern on two occasions and checked the casino’s CCTV footage, only to recognise Mr Blake from his membership. He then saw Mr Blake worked at the club in question by looking at their website.6

  • Angela Reakes – Player - Cricket

Cricket Australia imposed a two-year suspended sentence on player Angela Reakes for placing five bets on the ‘man-of-the-match’ betting market during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.7

There was some surprise that Ms Reakes was sanctioned for placing bets which totalled just AUS$9 (c.£4.50 GBP) on a competition and match in which she was not a participant. However, the scale of the betting should only be relevant to the sanction and not the breach itself.

  • Dennis Quirke – Senior Handicapper – Horse Racing

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing suspended its senior handicapper Dennis Quirke for betting on races.8 By virtue of his position Mr Quirke possessed a significant amount of information relevant to the betting markets on the races for which he was responsible.9, 10

  • Lewis Smith – Player – Football

Lewis Smith was charged with 28 breaches of the Football Association’s Rules relating to betting activity during the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons. After admitting the charges, Mr Smith was suspended for just under 17 months and fined the total returns he made on the bets of £22,865.11

  • Marius Sumudica – Coach – Football

Mr Sumudica is the coach of the Romanian top division team FC Astra. He was found to have placed bets between of a value between €500 and €900 euros on several matches in the Romanian championship, the Champions League, Europa League as well as Romania's junior teams' matches. The Romania Football Federation banned him for six months and fined him c.€22,000.12

 

Why SGBs restrict betting activity by participants

Betting on sport has never been more popular globally, principally due to advances in technology, and continues to grow at a rapid rate.13 It is only natural therefore that sports participants will make up a proportion of that growing market. This leads to the question: why does sport need to address betting by their participants, particularly on their own sport, especially when such betting often has no direct link to any form of match-fixing or manipulation?

The answer lies in two related notions: integrity and perception. In the author’s opinion, there is a feeling by governing bodies that stakeholders in sport often do not understand the difference between a participant merely betting, and a participant fixing a match. This can lead to a perception that the integrity of a sport has been compromised by a participant’s bet, even if no fixing whatsoever is involved.14 World Rugby state this importance as follows:

Public confidence in the authenticity and integrity of the sporting contest is of paramount importance. If that confidence were to be undermined the Game would be fundamentally affected.15

The FA Independent Regulatory Commission also identified the importance of the perception of integrity in the Lewis Smith case (see above). In relation to one match where Smith bet against his own team to lose the Commission stated:

There is no suggestion that he did not play to the best of his ability, or that he did, or did not do, anything untoward that influenced the outcome of the game, which Chelmsford won. There is also no evidence and no suggestion that the outcome of the match was otherwise tainted in any way. However, the appearance that such a bet creates in the minds of right-minded observers, and the inevitable erosion of trust and confidence in a fair and impartial result, is why it is properly regarded as a serious aggravating feature in a betting case of this kind.16

In addition to corruption, it also worth mentioning the amount of problem gambling (i.e. addiction) seen among sports participants.17 It is felt that through tackling betting by participants, SGBs and other stakeholders in sport are also fulfilling a moral duty to help participants avoid some of the tragic consequences that can arise through gambling addiction.18

 

How SGBs regulate betting by participants

For the reasons above, SGBs look to prohibit betting by participants on their own sport. The exact scope of the prohibition placed upon participants varies between sports. In deciding upon the scope, a sport has to balance understanding by the participants under the jurisdiction of the relevant SGB against the practical realities of enforcement.

The prohibition against betting will be contained in an SGB’s regulations. These are the relevant provisions in the regulations of the international federations for football, rugby union and cricket:

  • Football – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA):

Persons bound by [the FIFA Code of Ethics 2012] shall be forbidden from taking part in, either directly or indirectly, or otherwise being associated with, betting, gambling, lotteries and similar events or transactions connected with football matches. They are forbidden from having stakes, either actively or passively, in companies, concerns, organisations, etc. that promote, broker, arrange or conduct such events or transactions."19

NB: relevant definition of ‘Persons’ is in the references.20

  • Rugby union – World Rugby:

No Connected Person shall, directly or indirectly, Wager and/or Attempt to Wager on the outcome or any aspect of any Connected Event and/or receive and/or Attempt to receive part or all of the proceeds of any such Wager and/or any other Benefit in relation to a Wager.21

NB: relevant definitions of ‘Benefit’,22 ‘Connected Event’,23 ‘Connected Person’,24 and ‘Wager’25 are in the references.

  • Cricket – International Cricket Council (ICC):

The conduct described…if committed by a Participant, shall amount to an offence…Placing, accepting, laying or otherwise entering into any Bet with any other party (whether individual, company or otherwise) in relation to the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any International Match.26

NB: relevant definitions of ‘Participant’,27 ‘Bet’28 and ‘International Match’29 are in the references.

It is clear that in the main international federations impose a broad prohibition on participants betting on their sport, at least on the events/competitions that are within their jurisdiction (i.e. not those delegated to national or regional governing bodies).

This approach is in line with the International Olympic Committee’s recently published Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions:

The following conduct as defined in this Article constitutes a violation of this Code:

Betting in relation either:

a. to a Competition in which the Participant is directly participating; or

b. to the Participant’s sport; or

c. to any event of a multisport Competition in which he/she is a participant.30

A blanket (i.e. total ban) approach is justified by governing bodies on the basis of a combination of:

  1. It being easy for participants to understand and therefore comply with; and

  2. The perception of the sport being clean, for example, as Cricket Australia said in the aforementioned Reakes case, “Public confidence in the authenticity and integrity of the sporting contest is therefore vital. If that confidence is undermined, then the very essence of cricket will be shaken to the core.”31

Whatever the scope of the prohibition, a sport’s rules must also outlaw any associated conduct by a participant in relation to betting on the sport. This is done by barring the following conduct connected to the betting offence: (directly or indirectly) soliciting, offering, inducing, enticing, instructing, persuading, encouraging, agreeing with and/or facilitating any other party to breach the betting prohibition.32

However, whilst the author advocates strong, wide-ranging regulatory prohibitions, they need to be complimented by robust enforcement mechanisms or will otherwise prove of little use.

 

Methods and approaches to monitoring and enforcement

To maintain the credibility of the total prohibition on betting, SGBs must have in place robust and comprehensive enforcement and monitoring systems. This should include the gathering of intelligence by working with betting operators through memoranda of understanding, and even entering into a commercial relationship with a sports betting monitoring company.

Looking at the three international federations discussed above, in brief:

  • FIFA enforces its regulations relating to betting integrity through a combination of resources from its Security Division33 and its own ‘in-house’ betting monitoring capability Early Warning System GmbH (EWS) which is a separate entity which works by having direct non-commercial agreements with betting operators and its aim to protect football matches in all FIFA tournaments by monitoring and analysing the international sports betting market and through comprehensive reporting to FIFA Security.34

  • The ICC has its own Anti Corruption Unit(ACU) that pursues three objectives: investigation, education, and prevention. The ACU is a professional, permanent and secure infrastructure that looks to act as a long term deterrent to conduct of a corrupt nature prejudicial to the interests of the game of cricket, which includes betting by participants.35 The ICC also has a relationship with sports betting monitoring services provider Sportradar.36 Since 2004 Sportradar has provided its Fraud Detection System service to the ICC to assist them with identifying suspicious betting which may be in breach of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code.37

  • World Rugby has its own anti-corruption website ‘Keep Rugby Onside38 which, as well as setting out the betting restrictions for Connected Persons, also provides details of how it monitors and seeks to prevent betting integrity offences, “Monitoring measures are in place both within World Rugby, Unions, betting companies and increasingly, as shown in the case studies, government and police units in many countries to detect unusual betting or occurrences in sporting contests….these bodies exchange information with World Rugby...when World Rugby identifies or becomes aware of an incident…there may be an immediate charge against the person(s) involved by World Rugby, the person's Union and/or the police and the commencement of disciplinary proceedings.39 World Rugby also has a relationship with Sportradar whereby it utilises the Fraud Detection System.40

Such sophisticated enforcement strategies as those set out briefly above are often expensive both in terms of labour and technology and as a result are not available to the majority of SGBs. Even if sophisticated systems and strategies are in place they are not always implemented consistently by SGBs which have a worldwide prohibition on betting on their sport. This then leaves them open to potential investigation by journalists and scandals being revealed by the media, as has been seen most recently in tennis.41

If a governing body does not believe it can effectively monitor and enforce a worldwide betting ban on that sport, then it can prohibit betting based on certain territories or competitions (which the author has advised national governing bodies to take previously) and have a catch-all offence of “bringing the sport into disrepute”.42

 

Conclusion

The attractions of betting will always be present to certain participants in sport. Therefore, SGBs and other stakeholders must continue to be vigilant to the integrity threat betting poses, particularly when those certain participants are betting on their own sport.

They can achieve this successfully through a combination of a robust prohibition on betting in their rules (backed by a comprehensive education programme), monitoring betting, enforcement and proportionate sanctioning.

 

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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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