An overview of the latest match-fixing policy developments in 2015
Published 13 May 2015 By: Kevin Carpenter
Policy making in the field of match-fixing, and all activities associated with it, continues apace in 2015 by sports governing bodies (‘SGBs’), governmental bodies and non-governmental organisations (‘NGOs’), or a combination of the three working together.
There is an ever growing recognition that the fight against match-fixing cannot be undertaken by one stakeholder group alone and co-operation on a global scale is what is required to both prevent and prosecute, with the former being preferable but the latter being inevitable.
This blog will provide an overview and briefly analyse the recent policy developments by organisations that fall into all three of the aforementioned categories: the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’), Transparency International (‘TI’), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (‘UNODC’) and the International Centre for Sports Security (‘ICSS’).
IOC’s roadmap for future action in line with Agenda 2020
On 13 April the IOC hosted its first International Forum for Sports Integrity1 (‘IFSI’), with representatives from governments, SGBs and betting operators amongst others (full list of participants), at which it looked at adopting updated measures and actions in the field of match manipulation which would further both the work the IOC had done since 2006 (for further background see this article2) and Recommendation 16 of the IOC’s recently adopted Agenda 20203 for reform of the Olympic Movement:
Leverage the IOC USD 20 million fund to protect clean athletes
The IOC is to use its extra USD 20 million “Protection of clean athletes” fund:
- USD 10 million to develop robust education and awareness programmes on the risk of match-fixing, any kind of competitions and related corruption.
- USD 10 million to support projects offering a new scientific approach to anti-doping.”
Indeed in his opening remarks4 at the IFSI, IOC President Thomas Bach mentioned in particular: the need to protect clean athletes, the proportionality of sanctions and co-operation between all interested stakeholders.
The headline to come out of the IFSI was the introduction of a new reporting mechanism, the IOC's Integrity and Compliance Hotline. There is some considerable conjecture in the sporting community about the best system to adopt when offering participants the opportunity to report any information they may have regarding the manipulation of sporting events, which is vital. The approach the IOC has adopted is undoubtedly spurred by the acknowledged presence of organised crime and peer pressure, both of which are ways in which people can be persuaded from coming forward, as the so-called “important considerations” listed are: Confidentiality, Anonymity and Protection.5 However, an anonymous reporting system means that the SGB and/or law enforcement body may not be able to follow-up with or check the veracity of the information provided by a participant, or indeed any other person outside the sport (i.e. a fan or member of the public), and the SGB cannot monitor whether participants are complying with their duty to report which is present in a number of SGBs rules/regulations. Perhaps an acceptable middle ground would be to guarantee anonymity should charges be brought, and formal evidence required, to the person who provides the information up to and including a trial or hearing. In a sporting context this approach has already been taken by the Court of Arbitration or Sport (‘CAS’) in FK Pobeda, Aleksandar Zabrcanec, Nikolce Zdraveski v UEFA (CAS 2009/A/1920).6
The decisions taken at the IFSI were far broader than simply in relation to reporting, indeed they provided a “roadmap for future action”, with recommendations falling under three headings. The first being 'Education and Information'7 which included:
- diverse educational tools that cascade down through sport and are not just focussed at the elite level – this would ensure that an integrity/anti-corruption culture is built-up throughout sport;
- betting operators support awareness-raising programmes – presumably both in terms of expertise and funding, which is already taking place, for example the Professional Players Federation sports betting integrity education program is delivered in partnership with sports betting operators bet365, Betfair and Ladbrokes; and
- educating law enforcement – this is paramount in the author’s opinion given the often under-appreciated complexities of match-fixing as a crime and the actors involved.
The second area of 'Intelligence and Investigation'8 focuses on the exchange of information between stakeholders, without which match-fixing activities cannot be successfully identified and then dealt with either by SGSs or law enforcement, and making sure there are clear processes in place for information gathering and investigations. Unfortunately regarding the latter, given it is only a recommendation, there is no further detail as to how to implement it, however from the author’s work and experience there are a variety of systems to suit the needs and resources of all SGBs and international federations (‘IFs’).
The third and final area of focus for the IFSI is 'Regulation and Legislation'.9 The most significant policy development in 2014 was the opening for signature of the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions (the author’s analysis of it can be read here10). The IFSI encourages as many national states as possible to sign that Convention. It also calls on sports betting entities to tighten their regulatory approach to avoid any conflict of interests and also to ensure that their terms and conditions allow them to disclose information to the relevant stakeholder despite any data protection laws in place. Finally, the IOC will look to introduce minimum standards to be included the rules/regulations for all IFs who are part of the Olympic Movement to try and achieve some consistency of approach.
Furthermore, after the IFSI the IOC's Ethics webpage on Betting has also been updated.
Transparency International launches ‘Corruption in Sport Initiative’
TI is the widely regarded as the leading NGO globally when it comes to the fight against corruption and ensuring the highest standards of integrity across all sectors. Each year it produces a Global Corruption Report (‘GCR’) on a specific sector and this year its subject is Sport. The full Report, with chapters covering and authored by leading experts in the field, will be published towards the end of 2015 and to build-up to that TI have launched the ‘Corruption in Sport Initiative’11 which, “provides a space for new analysis, commentary and recommendations by leading voices in the field of sports governance to strengthen transparency, accountability and participation, and showcase the work of TI national chapters and the wider anti-corruption movement in tackling corruption in sport.”12
Preventing and combatting match-fixing is central to the Initiative and is indeed one of three principal areas TI will be focussing on. Indeed any work done in relation to match-fixing by TI pursuant to the Initiative will build upon the knowledge it has built during its ‘Staying On Side: how to stop match-fixing’ EU-funded project which concluded last year.13 It is clear that match-fixing has clear links to a culture of corruption in some countries and some sports, such as what has been revealed with Greek football,14,15 and so match-fixing is not entirely independent of the other two pillars of the Initiative, particularly the first, “Improving governance in sport organisations”. Indeed TI believes that the management culture of sport has failed to keep pace with the sector’s growth which has allowed corruption to be prevalent through a number of activities in the sport including match-fixing, the true scale of which is not fully known.
As part of the Initiative selected articles from the GCR: Sport will be published online throughout the year. For instance, as part of the launch, the author’s article ‘Why are countries taking so long to act on match-fixing?’ was published on the website.16 To be informed of when new articles are published, and developments in the Initiative as a whole, it is recommended to Register to the mailing list.
ICSS and UNODC announce criminal match-fixing prevention partnership
The final high profile policy development in the field of match-fixing from early 2015 is the new partnership between the ICSS and the UNODC to help strengthen cross-border investigations and prosecutions into match-fixing and the manipulation of sports competitions.17 The ICSS seemingly has ambitions to become a WADA-type body for match-fixing and is increasing the relationships it has with national governments and governmental organisations. This is another step in that strategy. The UNODC’s previous interest in match-fixing principally was the publication of the ‘Criminalization Approaches to Combat Match-Fixing and Illegal/Irregular Betting: A Global Perspective’ report with the IOC two years ago.18
The transnational and cross-border nature of match-fixing, including often the involvement of advanced technology and large volumes of data, makes it one of the most difficult forms of crime to police and prosecute. For instance, once a fixer working for an organised crime syndicate leaves the country in which the fix has taken place, if the fix is then later discovered it can be difficult to have them extradited, as happened in the match-fixing scandal which took place in Cremona, Italy in 2011.19
As a result this partnership focuses on criminal justice and law enforcement authorities and covers a number of the areas already discussed in this blog. Data sharing on a global scale will be worked upon by the two parties to further the volume of information exchanged and two new training handbooks will be developed for law enforcement authorities: one aligned to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption20 and the other concerning information exchange between governmental organisations and SGBs.
The author has said previously that the IOC is the key organisation in the anti-match-fixing movement as it is the body with the necessary political, social and sporting clout to bring all stakeholders together to form a coherent strategy.21 Therefore the first meeting of the IFSI, and the actions and recommendations to come from it, are welcome.
As regards the new Integrity and Compliance Hotline, despite the safeguards in place for someone who reports information, it will be interesting to see how frequently it is used given participants general mistrust (be it right or wrong) of SGBs to handle such matters. Given a lack of academic research and publications in the field of match-fixing, compared to other sporting integrity matters, namely doping and governance, the GCR:Sport will be of great interest and the Initiative will help to keep match-fixing at the heart of the sporting agenda. Finally, given the number of failed criminal prosecutions for match-fixing in the past, and the complexities involved in this unique crime, the ICSS/UNODC partnership can only help to address these shortcomings.
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- Tags: Anti-Corruption | Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) | Criminal Law | Governance | International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) | IOC | Match-Fixing | Regulation | Transparency International | United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- Whistleblowing in Sport – Part 2: Investigations and Disciplinary Proceedings
- Combating match-fixing in sport - a guide to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions
- Integrity in sport update: Greece amends law to avoid international football ban
- Integrity in sport update: Gibraltar FA educates community in match-fixing
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.