Tackling match-fixing: a look at the UK’s new Anti-Corruption Plan
In December 2014, the UK Government released its cross-government Anti-Corruption Plan.1 The Plan brings together, for the first time, all of the UK’s activity against corruption in one place.
Further explanation as to the purpose of the Plan is provided in the foreword:
“The purpose of this plan is threefold: to demonstrate the breadth of the UK’s current anti-corruption activities; to set out clearly the actions that government will take to tackle corruption in the UK; and to set out our priorities for raising international standards and leading the global fight against corruption in all its forms.”
The Plan is intended to apply to many sectors in society – including sport, which has its own dedicated section – and its strategic response to corruption will follow four P’s: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.
This blog will critique the Plan as it relates to sport in light of both the recently proposed legislative and regulatory amendments to the current anti-corruption framework and the criminal match-fixing cases investigated in England and Wales in the past couple of years.
THE CURRENT FRAMEWORK
Outside of the UK, the general view I garner from work I have done on this topic around the world is that the UK is viewed as a jurisdiction that has good criminal and regulatory laws and systems in place to tackle corruption in sport using a variety of actors, including (principally):
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport (‘DCMS’) – the UK Government’s ministerial department responsible for sporting matters;
- Gambling Commission - the commercial regulator of gambling with a responsibility for betting integrity;
- Local police forces;
- Crown Prosecution Service (‘CPS’) – the body responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales; and
- National Crime Agency (‘NCA’) - leads UK law enforcement's fight to cut serious and organised crime.
In addition, specific to match-fixing, the Gambling Act 20055 introduced a new offence under section 42 of ‘cheating at gambling’, which the Government believed was drafted in such a way so as to address the variety of match-fixing offences that arise and also to provide a sufficient deterrent, carrying with it a prison term of up to 2 years:
(1) A person commits an offence if he–
(a) cheats at gambling, or
(b) does anything for the purpose of enabling or assisting another person to cheat at gambling.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) it is immaterial whether a person who cheats–
(a) improves his chances of winning anything, or
(b) wins anything.
(3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) cheating at gambling may, in particular, consist of actual or attempted deception or interference in connection with–
(a) the process by which gambling is conducted, or
(b) a real or virtual game, race or other event or process to which gambling relates.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable–
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, to a fine or to both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.6
However, in the past 15 years, despite their often being ostensibly strong evidence in favour of a conviction, there have been only a small number of successful investigations and convictions brought for match-fixing offences. Examples in recent times of failures to successfully investigate and prosecute include the Stephen Lee case in snooker,7 and 13 individuals - including professional footballers - for match and/or spot fixing as recently as last month.8,9 Indeed, of those prosecutions that have been successful in recent times - namely the Pakistan cricketers’ spot-fixing conviction in 201110 and match-fixing by overseas criminals working with semi-professional football players in 201411 – the prosecutors relied upon using conspiracy laws from the early 1900’s.12
Furthermore, the global economic downturn had a significant impact on the UK and its public services, including law enforcement, who now more than ever before have to consider carefully the crimes to prioritise and allocate funding and resources to. Regrettably in the author’s view, match-fixing and sporting corruption is not viewed as a priority notwithstanding the clear links to organised crime groups and therefore other serious crimes such as duress and violence, money laundering and human trafficking.
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- Tags: Anti-Corruption | Anti-Corruption Plan | Bribery Act 2010 | Criminal Law Act 1977 | Department for Culture | Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 | Gambling Act 2005 | Gambling Commission | Governance | Integrity Action Plan | Media and Sport | Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 | Regulation | Sports Betting Group (SBG) | The Council of Europe (CoE) | United Kingdom (UK)
- Combating match-fixing – the need for a consistent approach to preventative measures and duties to report
- National match-fixing policies: Australasia shows the way
- Combating match-fixing in sport - a guide to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions
- A guide to The Football League’s decision on Massimo Cellino
About the Author
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.