Why sport is signing-up to tackle betting corruption

Alliance Policy Adviser, Leigh Thompson, explains why the Sports Betting Group's adoption of the Sport and Sports Betting Integrity Action Plan sends a strong message about the sector's attitude to corruption in sport.

The recent stories involving suspected tennis match-fixing and corruption by umpires are a clear demonstration, if it were ever needed, of the importance of sports governing bodies having robust betting integrity measures in place. Protecting the integrity of competition from betting corruption is now both front- and back-page news – fundamental to the standing of sport in the eyes of not just fans and paying sponsors but also Government and the wider public.

Against this background of intense media interest, today’s announcement by the Sports Betting Group that it is formally adopting the Sport and Sports Betting Integrity Action Plan (the SBI Action Plan) sends an important and timely message: sports bodies are absolutely committed to preserving integrity and to working with others to keep sport and betting free from corruption.

The SBI Action Plan sets out the expected focus of key stakeholders – including the Gambling Commission, law enforcement agencies, sports governing bodies, player associations, betting operators and Government – in addressing the risks of sports betting corruption. I have blogged previously about the SBI Action Plan and its wider significance but of particular relevance are the specific actions contained in the plan which fall to sports bodies (under the aegis of the Sports Betting Group), notably to:

• Review the adoption of the Sports Betting Group’s Code of Practice to determine its effectiveness;
• Review the provision and effectiveness of education programmes in sport to deter and protect players and participants from betting corruption and;
• Collaborate with relevant sports to share information, best practice and assist them to tackle match-fixing issues within their sport.

Formed following the Report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel (the ‘Parry report’), the Sports Betting Group comprises many of the UK’s leading sports governing bodies and player associations and brings together experts in the field to share knowledge, information and good practice on sports betting integrity. The group is therefore well placed to carry out a review of existing practice and to provide leadership and guidance to other sports in how they can address the risks from sports betting corruption.
In adopting the SBI Action Plan and the actions contained within it, the announcement today by the Sports Betting Group is important for a number of reasons.

It represents a clear public commitment by sport to play its full part in tackling betting corruption and to work collaboratively with other stakeholders to address the risks to both sport and betting markets. As part of this, sports bodies will ensure progress against the actions set out above is reported regularly to partners on the Sports Betting Integrity Forum (SBIF).

Equally importantly, it is a recognition that there is no ‘fail-safe’ approach to preventing betting corruption. While the risk to sport in the UK is currently assessed to be low, there can be no complacency; the very nature of betting corruption means that risks will evolve over time. In this context, today’s commitment by Sports Betting Group demonstrates sports bodies’ willingness to regularly review integrity arrangements and to make improvements where necessary.

Finally, it is a commitment to support other sports at risk from sports betting corruption by sharing knowledge, expertise and good practice. This collaborative approach is particularly important in an environment in which the resources to tackle integrity threats are very often limited.

As I set out in the introduction to this blog, the recent media coverage of alleged betting corruption in tennis is a warning that all sports should heed. It is no longer credible to claim ignorance of the issues or of their importance. Further, the recent policy announcements in the DCMS Sports Strategy and the launch of the new IOC Code on competition manipulation will put betting integrity firmly on the agenda for a much wider range of sports, notably those involved in Olympic competition.

As part of the Alliance’s work to help the sector get fit for the future, we are here to provide support. If you need assistance on betting integrity issues, resources are available: please visit the Sports Betting Group website or, alternatively, contact us for a more detailed discussion about how we can help.