Match Fixing – Action Needs To Be Taken – Part 3

Published 20 June 2011 | Authored by: Kevin Carpenter

An effective strategy to combat the complex global threat of match fixing must be built on a thorough understanding of the nature and scale of the threat by all the stakeholders in sport. Having examined the nature andscale of the threat, in the final part of the article I will analyse and evaluate what action is being taken to tackle match fixing in sport.

An effective way to formulate a strategy is to focus efforts around a number of principles. Having examined what academics, policy makers and sporting bodies consider to be the key principles in combating match fixing they appear to fit into three categories: formulation of clear guidelines; compliance with and surveillance of those guidelines; and education.

Clear guidelines

The formulation of clear guidelines, as mentioned in part 2 , is crucial so that participants in sport know what is and is not allowed. Like with any type of legislation or rules, those affected by it need to be able to understand them so that their rights are adequately accounted for. To produce the best set of guidelines there needs to be thorough understanding, and if necessary review, of the problem. In the UK the Government have taken the lead with the Report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel in February 2010. I have already mentioned some of the troubling statistics from that report, in relation to the lack of provisions in sports governing bodies (“SGB’s”) rules in relation to match fixing activities, and as a result the Sports Betting Integrity Panel included a draft code of conduct (the “Code”), the principles of which can apply to all sports and their stakeholders as a de minimis standard: rules on betting; inside information; commitment to enforce; sanctions; information sharing and co-operation; best practice; and education. Around this draft Code SGB’s must make such amendments as may be necessary to their rules and regulations to satisfy the minimum standards contained in the Code, as a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unlikely to be appropriate across the board. Setting standards across all sports is following the approach of the World Anti Doping Agency (“WADA”) with the World Anti Doping Code.

Compliance and surveillance

 In terms of compliance and surveillance it is obvious that a code of conduct cannot be effective on its own, and chiefly it lays at the feet of SGB’s to have effective mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with their rules. Best practice in ensuring compliance needs to include some form of intelligence gathering, investigating and evidence gathering to satisfy the twin aims of prevention and detection. SGB’s and policy makers do this in two ways: through anti-corruption units and early warning systems ("EWS"). The majority of sports now have an anti-corruption units in place, unfortunately the establishment of many of them has been reactive following the revelation of a match fixing scandal, rather than pro-active, which is a reflection of the fact that many sports have buried their head in the sand for too long, being adamant they were clean and of the view that “it couldn’t happen to us!” The establishment, only in September 2010, of a new integrity to unit to police snooker following the John Higgins scandal being evidence of the insular, haughty and delusionary attitude of some sports to match fixing. Taking anti-corruption units one step further, the Sports Betting Integrity Panel also put forward proposals for a pan-sports integrity unit to pool intelligence gathered by all SGB’s and co-ordinate investigations and all other activities in this area. 

With very much the same aims of pooling intelligence, resources and expertise, in recent years there has been the advent of EWS’s. One of the key disadvantages of an EWS is that they are expensive technical systems and require technical expertise that it is not proportionate or possible from a cost perspective for regulators and SGB's at national level to acquire or pursue. The apparent leader in this area is FIFA’s EWS based in Switzerland which was launched in 2005. The declared objective of the organisation is “to safeguard the integrity of sport”. It has been structured as a legally independent and autonomous company, and does not pursue any commercial interests on the international betting market. Although it is primarily there to protect football and FIFA's slogan of 'For the Game. For the World.', it was also in operation at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 on behalf of the International Olympic Committee ("IOC"). 

A cornerstone of FIFA’s EWS’s effectiveness is its trusted and intensive partnerships with more than 400 national and international bookmakers who have contractual agreements to report any irregular or suspicious activities in sports betting. This reflects what was mentioned in part 2 that it is in the interests of legal bookmakers to combat the threat of match fixing through illegal betting channels, “[Legal] operators are the first to lose out if matches are fixed because in the short term they are likely to lose directly on the bets and long term lose indirectly if the market decreases because people lose faith in sport.” In response to this overarching threat to their industry in 2005, and specifically to the Hoyzer affair in German football in the same year , a number of European betting operators set up their own EWS the European Sports Security Association ("ESSA") based in Brussels. ESSA considers match fixing a serious threat so much so that, from its central office, it shares information and security with sports organisations free of charge. 

Education

Education about the threat of match fixing, and the consequences to individuals and the sport, is an area, which has been very much neglected. As mentioned previously, the Code by the Sports Betting Integrity Unit includes a requirement on SGB's to provide education, "SGB's will provide education/awareness programmes on all integrity issues in sport in relation to betting.” Indeed in the report they dedicate an entire section to the education of competitors. The key recommendations that came from the specific working group on this topic were as follows:

• SGB’s and player associations in each sport should work together in the development of a communication programme to highlight the rules of the sport and for education;
• The basis of an effective communication programme should be to provide face to face education to all participants or competitors at both youth and professional level to fully explain the rules, and what is a breach of those rules, in a way which they will understand; and 
• Verification of participants’ understanding of the communication programme should be evidenced through informal tests at the end of the programme.

Interestingly WADA has also initiated youth programmes, including a Social Science Research Grant Program, which supports and encourages research in social science in order to obtain information that will enable more efficient doping prevention strategies. Would do any harm to try the the approach for match fixing and corruption? It could stimulate interest and research to fill deficiencies, both in terms of specialism and finance, in the current approaches of SGB’s. Additionally from the field of social science , research has shown that universal school-based interventions and education are the ones which offer the most systematic and efficient way of reaching the greatest number of young people each year. However, although they have an immediate impact, their long-term effects are questioned. Rather school-based problems integrated into multi-level strategies involving school, family and community would bring the long-term changes and enhance effectiveness. One programme currently in place driven by the Council of Europe, an international organisation in Strasbourg which comprises 47 countries of Europe set up to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe, has developed a Code of Sport Ethics as a foundation for educational measures aimed at strengthening sport ethics. In addition European Ministers responsible for sport have committed to promoting the Code. 

Other prevention methods

The other area of prevention is from the participants in sport. It is imperative that players themselves come forward with any knowledge they have of corruption that is going on in their own sport, as there is often an asymmetry of information between them and the SGB. For instance, the ATP prides itself on being one of sport's more efficient self-regulating bodies, with a significant input from players. Indeed the Sports Betting Integrity Panel recommended the provision of a dedicated whistle-blowing line or clear communication channel for any participant to report any illegal or unusual approach regarding betting in their sport.

What the future holds

Having now looked at the past and present, and made suggestions for improvement, what are some of the most influential bodies in a governing capacity in sport looking to implement in the future to address the multitude of concerns highlighted throughout this paper. The competition that has remained largely untouched by corruption despite being the biggest in the world is the Olympics. Now I find this surprising given the largely amateur standing of its competitors and therefore the financial gains to be made from becoming complicit in match fixing are persuasive. Indeed the president of the IOC Jacques Rogge admits that his organisation cannot afford to be naïve or complacent. To prevent such complacency setting in the IOC are currently considering three options to tackle illegal betting: a new body based on a formalised structure; a body based on existing United Nations/Council of Europe conventions; or to continue building alliances and communication between SGB’s, governments and international bodies such as Interpol. To fund any of these options Mr Rogge has called for controversial legislation that will see sport receive a portion of betting revenues as a rule across European countries. He believes that the regulated betting industries role as an ally in the fight to protect the integrity of sport should come at a price. He says that the IOC favours a system where betting operators are licensed by the national government but that SGB's should have a ‘fair return’ for their efforts for organising the sport from the operator’s financial income. This ‘levy’ has been justified on the basis that the betting operators use sports ‘intellectual property’ (“IP”) to their commercial advantage. Although, as already shown, legal betting operators want to help in the fight, and many people can be integral to it, they do not buy into the idea that bookmakers are somehow using sport’s IP and should therefore have to pay for the privilege. However, if the goals of a SGB or government are simply driven by short-term financial aspirations, the long-term prize for cleaning up sport for good could remain a distant pipe dream. 

The next most powerful SGB in the world is FIFA. They are implementing a number of policies and spending vast amounts of money looking into the future. Specifically to address the high risk of referees being corrupted by match fixers, for instance the high profile games reported in part 1 and subsequently in a recent friendly between Nigeria v Argentina , FIFA are now promising tighter monitoring of referees’ assignments by forcing organisers of exhibition matches / friendlies to submit referees’ names for approval two months before the game is to be played. The cynic and referee in me believes this is obvious and wonders why FIFA has not controlled this from the outset, very much a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Throughout this paper it is evident how crucial strategic partnerships between various stakeholders in the integrity of sport are to the success of fighting threat match fixing. Indeed Secretary General of Interpol Ronald K. Noble has said that law enforcement has to be as equally as flexible through co-operation at the regional and global levels, to not only facilitate the exchange of expertise and intelligence on suspects and modus operandi but, to carry out joint operations when possible. FIFA too recognises this and has just pledged £17.5m to a groundbreaking 10-year crack down on match fixing and illegal betting working alongside Interpol. The money will help create a FIFA anti-corruption training wing in Singapore, which is considered a good place strategically to base operations to combat the threat, as Interpol already has a significant presence there and FIFA believes a number of illegal betting operations operate from the country. The money will also be used to educate players, referees and officials. Ronald K. Noble said, “By funding a long-term corruption prevention training programme to be designed and implemented by Interpol…FIFA has taken a significant step towards ensuring the integrity of football worldwide.

Final words

This paper has looked at all aspects of match fixing and has hopefully made you wonder why it is given far less column inches and coverage than other threats to the integrity of sport, particularly doping, when it is in my opinion the biggest threat of the 21st century. The perception of a problem of match fixing can be as serous a threat as the actual problem itself, so both are important to tackle. Furthermore, no longer should those convicted of doping offences be vilified more than convicted participants in match fixing. The increasing presence of criminals across the sporting spectrum should be a concern for all stakeholders and provide additional impetus to the continuing need for concerted action on a global scale, above all given that organized crime never loses money in illegal gambling operations, one way or another they make a profit. Ronald K. Noble highlighted the gravity of the increasing criminal presence perfectly, "organised criminals frequently engage in loan-sharking and use intimidation and violence to collect debts, forcing their desperate, indebted victims into drug smuggling and their family members into prostitution.” If that does not make you sit up and take notice then nothing will.

To read the full article in pdf click here.

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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