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Promoting fair play in sport John Goodbody reports on


he sentencing of three disgraced Pakistani cricketers for cheating during the Test Match against England in August 2010 has been

a reminder of the potential for sports events to be fixed for corrupt betting reasons. Had it not been for the journal- istic enterprise of the now defunct News of the World in exposing the practice, the cricketers might have con- tinued to take part in similar criminal activity for years to come. It’s very well for Sir Ronnie Flanagan,

the head of the anti-corruption unit of the International Cricket Council, to say that he didn’t believe that corrup- tion was commonplace in the game. Since his staff had been unaware of the malpractice before the exposé, one wonders how he knows this? Given the fact that Interpol estimates

that the market for illegal gambling is US$500bn (£312bn) in Asia alone, the temptation for individuals to succumb to corruption is enormous, particularly when, as is the case with the Pakistani cricketers, they are not that well paid. It’s no wonder that Dr Jacques Rog-

ge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), regards the potential of corruption through betting to be as big a threat to the integrity of sport as drugs. Whereas competitors take drugs to win, some sportsmen and perhaps women are being approached to be paid to lose or to influence the in- tegrity of the event. Although the targeted sports are the

leading professional ones, such as foot- ball and horseracing, the staging of an event of the magnitude of the Olympics will create a market because of the in- ternational interest in so many sports. At least in the UK, early steps have been

taken following a government-commis- sioned report into sports betting integrity. A Sports Betting Group has been set up under the chairmanship of Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance. Among its members are Paul Scotney, who heads the Intel- ligence Unit of the British Horseracing

Issue 4 2011 © cybertrek 2011

Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif (second from right) received a one-year sentence for corruption

The IOC regards the potential of corruption through betting to be as big a threat to the integrity of sport as drugs

Authority, and Simon Barker of the Professional Footballers’ Association. As Lamb says: ”If we are to tackle this

effectively, then working hand-in-hand with players is absolutely essential. ”Educating sportsmen and women of

the dangers of the seemingly innocuous approaches from individuals for infor- mation, even about weather conditions or the form of players, is crucial to at- tempts to stamp out corruption.” Many national governing bodies

(NGBs) may believe that they are not at risk because they are not aware of any betting taking place on their sport. The Sports Betting Group has therefore conducted an audit of about 40 NGBs to help them with correct practice, with Lamb admitting that “some are more ahead of the game than others”. The group has also successfully

lobbied the government to require off-shore betting companies to be subject to the same high standards as those operating in the UK: such as com- panies sharing any information about

suspicious betting patterns with the Gambling Commission. The government has recently an-

nounced plans to strengthen the 2005 Gambling Act to allow the commission to pass onto the IOC information it receives from law enforcement agencies during the Games. Yet, the government is reluc- tant to fund the Sports Betting Group in the same way that it does with UK Anti- Doping, to which it gives £7m a year. Instead, Hugh Robertson, the Minis-

ter for Sport, says: “You need to break down the barriers between the organi- sations responsible for dealing with this.” However, money is needed and an

alternative method of funding would be for there to be a small levy on bets placed in Britain to allow the group to have the necessary financial support. After all, the industry is worth £36bn in this country and could afford it. As Lamb says: “This is an issue that is not going to go away.” l

John Goodbody has covered 11 successive Olympic Games for the Sunday Times

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