Match-fixing - scandals, lessons & policy developments 2012/13- part 2
Published 07 March 2013 By: Kevin Carpenter
Having detailed some of the match-fixing scandals to have been prominent in 2012, and the approach taken at the London Olympic Games in part 1, we go on to examine action being taken across the globe.
Europe looking to lead the way
European political institutions have taken it upon themselves to lead a co-ordinated and(hopefully) coherent fight against match-fixing because, as European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michael Barnier recently said, “There is no other type of fraud where it is so evidently difficult for Member States to tackle it alone.” 1 Emine Bozkurt, a member of the European Parliament, had this to say in support, “Match-fixing might seem like a minor issue, but it is a serious problem in Europe. It is a form of crime with high revenues and excessively low sentences and detection rates.” 2 David Folker, of Football Data Co, summarised the challenge facing Europe in a very matter-of-fact way at the Sport&EU Conference 2012 this past summer in Lausanne, Switzerland describing it as ‘Le Mess!’:
- You have well organised, smart, litigious betting companies;
- Disorganised EU Member States;
- Powerless federal government;
- European courts trying to use the law to write policy;
- Legislators can’t keep pace with technology;
- Citizens want to bet on sports; and
- Sports IP is being used for betting purposes without permission. 3
The Council of Europe (‘COE’) got the ball rolling back in March 2012 when it invited the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (‘EPAS’) to launch negotiations, in co-ordination with the European Union (‘EU’), on a possible international legal instrument against the manipulation of sports results, notably match-fixing (‘the Convention’). 4 Functions of the Convention are intended to include (amongst others):
- Betting monitoring systems:
- Judicial co-operation: and
- Uniform sanctions.
It is worth stressing at this point that the COE is an entirely separate and distinct body from the EU. It covers almost the entirety of Europe with its 47 member countries while the EU only has 27 Member States. The COE seeks to develop common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights. Two of the COE’s objectives can be seen to fit with match-fixing: to protect human rights and to find common solutions to the challenges facing European society.
The EU formally accepted the COE’s invitation to participate on 13 November 2012 through the executive arm of the EU, the European Commission. The Commission stated that it wanted to represent the EU in the negotiations in order ensure the proposed Convention sat comfortably with the EU acquis, in particular the areas of Internal Market freedoms and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, and the evolving body of EU policies in relation to sport, online gambling and the fight against corruption more broadly.5 It has been said that the EU has to tread carefully in these areas despite the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 6 (otherwise known as the Lisbon Treaty) giving specific powers and competencies to the EU as regards sport (articles 6 and 165 7). This area received the largest amount of funds from the EU Commission’s sports unit in its latest grants to European projects 8, with more than €1 million having been given to projects to fight match-fixing.
The EU is also looking to tackle the thorny issue of match-fixing through the auspices of its review of online gambling within the Community. ‘Safeguarding the integrity of sports and preventing match-fixing’ is one of five priority areas in the “Towards a comprehensive European framework for online gambling” Communication published by the Commission in October 2012 (the ‘Action Plan’).9 Following on from the Action Plan the Commission proposes to adopt a Recommendation on best practices in the prevention and combating of betting-related match-fixing in 2014.10 Furthermore, Member States themselves are urged to take the following steps:
- Set up national contact points which bring together all relevant actors within each Member State that are involved in preventing match-fixing;
- Equip national legal and administrative systems with the tools, expertise and resources to combat match-fixing; and
- Consider sustainable ways to finance measures taken to safeguard sports integrity.
The final step is one which is often not given great enough importance in the debate about match-fixing. It is laudable having grand plans for trans-national policies and co-operation but who is going to pay for it? In the age of austerity, especially in the EU, a major obstacle to progress in this area will be governments setting aside the necessary funds. Governments have to lead as sports themselves are often reticent to do so. One set of stakeholders who have shown the means and will to spend on this issue are the betting operators themselves, with policy makers needing to have a more cordial attitude towards them to continue, and even enhance, this investment. I will return to this often overlooked problem in Part 3 when considering the appetite for a world match-fixing body.
Concerted efforts by trans-national bodies on a global scale
INTERPOL are perhaps the most important international organisation in combating match-fixing and have had considerable success with their operations.11 They are world’s largest international police organisation with 190 member countries. Interpol’s stated role is to, “enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place.” They say that their high-tech infrastructure of technical and operational support helps meet the growing challenges of fighting crime in the 21st century.12
Under INTERPOL’s ‘Corruption’ crime area sits ‘Integrity in Sport’. This stemmed from the 10-year relationship it entered into with FIFA back in May 2011 to develop and implement a global training, education and prevention programme with a focus on regular and irregular betting as well as match-fixing.13 An Integrity in Sport unit was then established to implement these objectives based within the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore. This has led INTERPOL to be engaged by other global sports to provide assistance on match-fixing prevention at the criminal level, for instance the London 2012 JAU (as described in Part 1). As Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said in 2012, “As corruption in sports has become a global concern, our response must be global and holistic.”14.
One of the major criminal match-fixing successes in recent times has been the four Soccer Gambling (‘SOGA’) operations. SOGA operations are coordinated by INTERPOL and have in total led to more than 7000 arrests, the closure of illegal gambling dens which handled more than US$2 billion worth of illegal bets and the seizure of nearly US$27 million in cash.15 The latest of these operations, SOGA IV, was this past summer and timed to coincide with the end of major national football leagues across Europe, UEFA European club competitions and the UEFA European Championships (EURO 2012) held in Poland and the Ukraine. It focussed on illegal football gambling networks across Asia. SOGA IV took two months in total and successful raids were carried out by law enforcement officers across China, Macau, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.16
As well as its hands-on crime fighting activities in the field INTERPOL has also been extremely active on the international conference circuit imparting pearls of match-fixing wisdom. One such conference was in Brazil in November where John Abbott, Chair of the INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport Steering Group said that the five key elements for a successful strategy are: partnerships, information exchange, co-ordination, prevention strategies and pro-activity.17
International Centre for Sports Security (‘ICSS’)
Another non-governmental body seeking to shape policy and operate on a global scale is the ICSS based in Doha, Qatar in the United Arab Emirates. The ICSS President, Mohammed Hanzab, states the ICSS’ goal to be, “a global hub of security, safety and integrity expertise, with the sole purpose of ensuring sport is equipped to overcome these challenges”.18 They claim that they are a, “not-for-profit organisation...[with] no private or governmental interests and all profit gets re-invested into the core activities”.
One of the ICSS’ four specific areas of work is ‘Sport Integrity’. Within this area they seek to focus on three core pillars:
- Protection of Sport through Training and Education;
- Protection of Sport through Investigation and Intelligence; and
- Protection of Sport through Enforcing Consequences in Sport.
It is evident that there seems to be a considerable amount of overlap with the work INTERPOL is already doing.
The ICSS have invested heavily in hand picking the best personnel in each of the four areas they look to work in, for instance for Sport Integrity they poached Chris Eaton from FIFA. As touched upon in Part 1, since taking the role of Director of Sport Integrity in May 2012 Eaton has been vocal on a number of aspects of match-fixing and the regulation of it making his views very clear. He describes criminal infiltration into football in particular as “endemic on a global level”19 and therefore calls on governments to take collective responsibility to ensure football bodies at all levels comply with minimum business standards, such as due diligence in financial procedures, and that they maintain and practice corruption protection policies and procedures.20 Being a former police officer himself he also has strong views on how police forces should tackle the issue, “It is the responsibility of police to routinely and actively investigate and internationally cooperate, with a primary focus on criminal disruption and crime prevention, not on prosecution and asset seizure.”21
Although the above action by the ICSS is all very laudable there have been a number of critics of their involvement. Declan Hill, considered the leading investigative journalist in the field, has praised Eaton for his recent statements, “He usually says interesting and truthful things. He should be listened to.”22 Yet Hill goes on to say, “The problem is that he is working for what many people perceive as a walking oxymoron – a Qatari anti-corruption agency. Few sports commentators, after the problems in awarding the 2022 World Cup, believe that the Qataris are disinterested in their pursuit of sports corruption.”23 There is also considerable scepticism about the motives of the ICSS given that Doha has mounted failed bids for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games and intends to bid again for 2024. There is a view that they are using the ICSS as a vehicle to politically lobby major SGBs and therefore garner support for future Olympic Games bids.
There will always be people more than willing to criticise any actions being taken in the Middle East in relation to sporting governance and integrity. Yet given the paucity of research in the field of match-fixing any body willing to contribute is deserving of applause. It is early days and it will be interesting to track how this unique body develops.
The third and final part will look at the use of lie-detectors, trends in sanctioning, the role sponsors can play and whether a worldwide match-fixing agency is desirable or indeed possible.
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- Tags: Anti-Corruption | Europe | European Commission | Football | International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) | INTERPOL | Match-Fixing | Olympic | The Council of Europe | UEFA
- Match-fixing - scandals, lessons & policy developments 2012/13 - part 1
- Match-fixing - scandals, lessons & policy developments - part 3
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.