BY PROF DR IAN BLACKSHAW
Any form of cheating in sport is anathema to its core values and its integrity, which is all about – or, at least, should be all about – fair play in all its aspects: the so-called ‘level playing field’ concept.
Match fixing in sport is one such form of cheating and is a continuing problem for sports governing bodies and other stakeholders, such as sponsors, the value of whose sponsorship is tarnished by this activity. Match fixing also devalues the experience of sports fans, who expect competitions to be fair and not fixed or distorted. In other words, fans are entitled to genuine sporting outcomes and unpredictable honest results.
Match fixing, like doping in sport, is never, sadly, far from the ‘headlines’ and the focus of media attention, to which the following current examples and developments mentioned in this topical note testify.
The University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne-ICSS Report on Sport Integrity of 15 May 2014
Published on 15 May, 2014, this is a very important and timely Report on Sport Integrity, which was and sets out the results of a two-year long in depth research programme carried out jointly by The University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and the International Centre for Sport Security based in Doha, Qatar. For an article on the activities of this Centre, see ‘The International Centre for Sport Security: one non-profit organisation’s aim to secure sport’, GSLTR December 2013, at pp. 47-50.
The Paris/ICSS Report comes with an Executive Summary of some 130 pages, which set out the guiding principles of the Report, which itself runs to 1,500 pages. A careful study of the Report will repay dividends to the diligent, amongst us!
The Report includes some startling figures on the scale and scope of the sports betting market, revealing that US$140 billion is laundered annually through sports betting and that 80% of sports betting is illegally transacted!
Cricket and Football are the sports that are most under threat and at risk.
The sports betting market globally is worth between €200 and 500 billion.
Legal sports betting currently delivers €4 billion in official tax revenues.
On-line betting represents 30% of the global market.
The Report concludes that “prevention and education are vital” for combatting “manipulation” and this, in turn, requires “cooperation between the sports movement, public authorities and betting operators.”
ESSA, the European Sports Security Association, which is the regulated betting industry’s integrity body and is based in Brussels (official website: www.eu-essa.org), has just issued, on 10 June, its 2014 Integrity Report.
This year, the Association has unveiled a new monitoring platform that it claims is even more efficient and accessible. Considerable investment in cutting-edge technology, the Association says, has not only provided ESSA’s members with a more flexible and robust platform, but has also made the Association uniquely equipped to deal with betting integrity issues.
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil now in full swing, sports integrity and betting once again has come to the fore and is the subject of renewed international focus.
The ESSA 2014 Annual Integrity Report shows that, out of 148 unusual betting patterns identified by ESSA members in the year 2013, 30 were found to be suspicious, and were subsequently referred to the relevant sporting and regulatory authorities for further investigation.
The Association asserts that its comprehensive security mechanisms and information sharing arrangements with a wide range of sporting and regulatory authorities, which include the IOC and FIFA, ensure the proactive position of ESSA members, as well as the importance of ESSA’s contribution to preserving sports betting integrity.
Qatar 2022 World Cup Award Controversy
Ever since Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there have been many allegations in several quarters that the choice of Qatar was the result of bribery and corruption of FIFA officials and members of the Qatar bid team, who have “vehemently” denied these allegations.
So, the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee appointed US Attorney Michael J Garcia, a former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Partner in the New York and Washington Office of the US Law Firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, to investigate and report on these allegations. Garcia seems to be very well qualified to undertake this kind of investigation, as he has been professionally involved in a wide range of prosecutions of white collar fraud, international terrorism and national security cases.
Garcia was given ‘carte blanche’ by FIFA to travel throughout the world and interview people for the purposes of compiling his Report, which is rumoured will cost FIFA millions of US dollars.
His investigations have been going on for two years and have taken him to many parts of the football world and he is expected to issue his Report to FIFA at the beginning of next month (July, 2014).
Depending on his findings, FIFA may be required to revote on the 2022 World Cup Host City!
Ghanaian Football Officials Accused of Fixing International Matches
According to an undercover investigation by the British ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper and Channel Four’s ‘Despatches’ programme, Ghanaian football officials have allegedly agreed, for cash, to fix international matches by appointing corrupt referees to unlawfully influence the results.
According to this investigation, the existence and results of which were released on 23 June, 2014, the President of the Ghanaian Football Association (GFA) is also implicated, although he has denied any involvement and wrong doing.
The President has called in the Police to look into these allegations, which have involved alleged payments of £100,000 per match in exchange for appointing corrupt referees and other match officials, including linesmen, to sway the results and line the pockets of illegal international betting syndicates, mainly based in the Far East.
One of the GFA officials concerned allegedly told undercover reporters that he could arrange to have games against British teams also fixed!
Such arranged referee appointments are contrary to FIFA Rules.
The jurisdictional problems hampering the fight against corruption in sport
In the September issue of GSLTR, we will feature an article on corruption in sport in general and match fixing in cricket in particular by Ian Smith, who is the Chief Operating Officer of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations.
We advance here his conclusions on how to fight match fixing and other activities which undermine the integrity of sport. He writes:
“I do not believe that sport needs a new World Anti-Corruption Agency along the line of WADA, but I do see great value in there being a central repository of intelligence and best practice that would benefit all of sport – the fixers do not confine themselves to one sport; they are opportunists, who will target weakness, and there must be overlapping intelligence currently in separate databases that could be merged and produce new leads and evidence.
The logical conclusion for me is that Interpol are the right body for this – they already have a small sports integrity unit funded by agreement with FIFA and football focussed, but that could easily be expanded into other sports by a relatively small amount of funding. Interpol also has the distinct advantage of already having in place the agreements and protocols for the sharing of evidence and intelligence between police forces; a power that no sports’ governing body, with the best will in the world, will ever have.
Further, it is evident that criminal law needs to be modernised and harmonised internationally to cope with the nature of betting and sport fraud. There are very few countries where sport fraud is even a criminal offence. This is where the work of the Council of Europe is so important as they seek to carve out the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport to try and get all countries and agencies on the same page in the fight against sports’ corruption.
In other words, it is way beyond the ability and resources of sport alone to deal with the current threat to its integrity. Betting fraud reaches to the highest level of international organised crime and is, thus, the problem of all of society – government, law enforcement, gambling operators, sports governing bodies, athletes and fans. Until a champion of joined up thinking emerges, the jurisdictional and practical problems described in this article are bound to continue.”
Despite the best efforts of sports governing bodies and others involved in the fight against match fixing in sport, it seems that – like the poor – corruption in sport will always be with us, particularly as sport is now such big business on a global scale!
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Sports Lawyer Academic and Author and may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’