Need for enhanced cooperation to fight match fixing

As a former member of the Rugby Football Union and as a member of the Culture and Education Committee, sport has a very special place in my heart!

The many global sports events of 2014 have however reminded us that the issue of match fixing remains a prime concern for policy makers, and one that I hope my committee will focus its attention on in this legislature.

Match fixing has many facets ranging from doping, money laundering to betting related match fixing. The latter one has grabbed the headlines in recent months and the global nature of the internet means that match fixing has become a global phenomenon affecting not only several sports but also upper and lower leagues.

What is the problem?

Evidence from law enforcement bodies, such as INTERPOL and Europol, along with independent research indicate that the principal danger comes from organised crime based outside of Europe. These criminals often use unregulated websites and operate with criminal networks inside of Europe to collude with corrupt sports people to fix games. Many of us were shocked by the finding of Europol last year when it uncovered a criminal network involved in trying to fix an alleged 380 football matches across Europe.

So what can we do to help?

First and foremost I believe that sports and the European sports betting industry, who have the most to lose from match fixing, have a shared responsibility to work together to protect sports integrity and to keep sports clean.  This is something all stakeholders in sport need to take responsibility for. The EU sports betting industry is playing an important part to that effect having signed information sharing agreements with over 20 major sports bodies, such as FIFA and the IOC, as well as a number of national gambling regulators. This approach deters corruptors from using EU regulated websites.

This approach is however not enough. Cooperation between the EU betting industry, sports bodies and law enforcement agencies must be extended to other parts of the world as match fixers often operate across borders and continents making investigations more of an operational challenge.

The Council of Europe convention against the manipulation of sports competitions, which was just signed this month, will hopefully provide a step in the right direction.  It will ensure that signatories of this convention have rules in place to ensure that match fixing is recognised as an offence, that criminals can be prosecuted and facilitate judicial and police cooperation.

This is a key priority for the European Parliament after we voted earlier this year to allocate €2M to launch a number of pilot projects to improve public -private sector partnership. I am hopeful that this money will serve, in particular, to improving information sharing agreements at EU level between police forces, betting operators and law enforcement agencies.

Second, educating players is crucial. After all, players are the first line of defence against corruption, and they therefore need to be educated that betting on their own sport could ruin their short careers. The betting industry was a leader in launching an educational campaign in 2010 with EU Athletes, Europe’s leading player syndicate, to explain to players how to behave properly in relation to sports and betting. The same campaign, which the European Commission co-funded, has the unique feature of using ex-players to go into the dressing rooms and have face-to-face discussions with their peers about sports betting integrity issues.

Third, sports can only be protected from match fixing if the sports betting market is regulated and transparent. The regulated market needs to be attractive and offer what customers are looking for. Unjustified restriction to the betting offer has the negative effect of driving consumers to the unregulated sector and increasing the threat to sports’ integrity. Something we must protect for Sport, industry and fans alike.




© Copyright Emma McClarkin
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