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How to protect the integrity of sport - key points from the Sport and Sports Betting Integrity Action Plan

Friday, 08 January 2016 By Leigh Thompson

Over recent years there has been a steady flow of cases involving match-fixing, spot-fixing and the misuse of inside information from across many sports and countries. These cases have drawn attention to the difficulties of protecting sport from betting corruption.

The very nature of sports betting corruption means that it presents specific challenges for those charged with stopping it; often it involves a range of sporting participants (athletes and officials but also administrators), highly mobile corrupters who operate across different sports and national borders and betting on both legal and illegal markets.

Stakeholders in the public and private sector therefore have to collaborate to combat this threat, sometimes across different legal and sporting jurisdictions, while very often constrained by limited resources and restrictions on the ability to share information and intelligence.

As a result, the debate within sport integrity circles has focused around a key question: how best to organise the relevant stakeholders to overcome these constraints in order to tackle sports betting corruption effectively?

A number of commentators have called for a global body to tackle sports integrity issues,1 possibly in the mould of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or some other form. Others have gone as far as to launch a global ‘integrity platform’ bringing together governments, NGOs and sports bodies in what might best be described as a ‘coalition of the willing’.2

Against this background, a recent development in Great Britain is of particular significance. On 16th September 2015 the Gambling Commission – the regulator for the gambling sector in Great Britain – launched The Sport and Sports Betting Integrity Action Plan (hereafter the ‘SBI Action Plan’).3 For the first time, the SBI Action Plan sets out:

..the expected focus of agencies, sports governing bodies (SGBs), player associations, betting operators and government in delivering timely and effective actions to identify and control risks associated with match-fixing and sports betting integrity.4

This article looks at the creation of the SBI Action Plan in more detail and its wider national and international significance.


Background to the SBI Action Plan: Policy evolution

The SBI Action Plan has its roots in a number of key policy developments in the field of sports betting integrity in Great Britain over the last five years. The first of these was the publication in February 2010 of the Government-commissioned Report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel chaired by Rick Parry (‘the Parry Report’) which made a series of important recommendations designed to improve the integrity of sport and sports betting.5 Key amongst these were the creation of the Sports Betting Group (and its associated Code of Practice6) to provide leadership for the sports sector and enhancements to the Sports Betting Intelligence Unit (SBIU) to create a comprehensive, centralised betting intelligence capability within the Gambling Commission.7

More recently, in December 2014, the UK Government published the UK Anti-Corruption Plan.8 The plan sets out a cross-government approach to tackling corruption and includes a number of actions aimed specifically at addressing corruption in sport, including implementation of the SBI Action Plan itself.9 The UK Anti-Corruption Plan therefore locates the SBI Action Plan within a broader policy context and the clear linkages identified between sport and other Government anti-corruption activity ensures there is wider political accountability for its delivery.

In this context, the SBI Action Plan can be seen as the latest in a series of evolutionary developments in sports betting integrity policy in Britain since 2010.


Implementing the plan: The Sports Betting Integrity Forum

The Sports Betting Integrity Forum (SBIF) is the key body charged with developing and overseeing delivery of the SBI Action Plan. Launched officially in November 2014, the SBIF comprises representatives from all of the key stakeholders involved in protecting the integrity of sport and sports betting including:

While not represented formally on the SBIF, the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), as the official sponsor of the Gambling Commission, acts as the lead Government department for the SBI Action Plan.

Like the SBI Action Plan itself, the creation of the SBIF can be traced back through a number of important initiatives since the Parry Report, each of which was an attempt to address gaps in knowledge, jurisdiction and expertise through collaborative working between key stakeholders. The first of these was the establishment of the Tripartite Forum in 2011.10 As the name suggests, the Tripartite Forum brought together the Gambling Commission, betting operators and sports bodies to tackle sports betting integrity risks at a detailed, operational level.

The second initiative was the deployment of the Joint Assessment Unit (JAU) at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.11 The JAU brought together, among others, the Gambling Commission’s SBIU, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Metropolitan Police and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to:

…ensure that the UK was prepared to receive and quickly assess information related to possible corrupt sports betting activity and assist primary decision makers in determining the appropriate responses, in the run up to and during the Games.12

Thus, while the SBIF has since superseded the Tripartite Forum, it can be seen as a natural product of these collaborative initiatives and a reflection of the maturing relationships between key stakeholders over recent years.

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Written by

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

Leigh is a Policy Adviser at the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the umbrella organisation for the governing and representative bodies of sport in the UK.

His main areas of focus include sports betting integrity – principally providing support to the Sports Betting Group – as well as broadcasting, tax and fiscal policy and EU sports policy. He has a background in policy and regulation having held similar posts in other sectors prior to joining the Alliance.

Leigh holds degrees in Economics and Public Policy and recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Law. He has a keen interest in the legal and regulatory aspects of sport.

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