The Sport Intergroup of the European Parliament held, this Wednesday April 6, a new conference focusing on the issue of match fixing. Divided into two panels of an hour each, the meeting tackled the issue from different angles. The first one focused on the role of public authorities in fighting match fixing while the second one evaluated the needed relationships between sports and the betting industry to deal with the problem more efficiently. Among the high-level speakers, representatives from different European sports and gaming authorities, EU Sport experts and specialised journalists shared views, opinions and proposals on how to prevent sport from gangrening by match fixing.
After an introductory speech by two Vice-Presidents of the Intergroup, Hannu Takkula and Bogdan Wenta, Simon Kuper, journalist for the Financial Times, expert in sports related issues opened the panel as moderator. He invited the different speakers to introduce their organisation and to explain how they fight against match fixing on a regular basis. Yves Le Lostecque (Head of the EU Sport Unit of the EU Commission) opened the debate reminding the European Commission’s commitment in fighting for the integrity of sport through the White Paper on sport (2007), the Communication on sport (2011), the action plan on online gambling (2012) as well as the creation of two experts groups on match fixing and on betting related matters. He also defended the role of the Erasmus + Sport program in financing sport projects in that matter.
Corinne Gatt (from the Malta Gaming Authority), Mikhaëk de Thyse (from the Council of Europe’s Committee on match fixing) and Nick Tofiluk (from the UK Gambling Commission) particularly urged the Council of Ministers to speed up the on-going negotiations on EU’s signature of the Council of Europe’s Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions. They defended that the Convention gave the first political momentum on the issue and that following its strategy was an absolute necessity for effective results. They also focused on the need for media coverage to report on match fixing scandals in order to raise public awareness.
Finally, the President of the French Regulatory Authority (ARJEL), Charles Coppolani, also took part in the discussions. He explained the importance of “risk prevention” and “risk assessment” approaches, stressing that “prevention is better than cure”. He also urged national authorities to organise themselves for more international cooperation (since 80% of sport bets in France are placed on sport competitions abroad and 91% of bets are placed on 8 different sports). He finally concluded in arguing that sportsmen should not be allowed to bet on their own competition in order to ensure it has no consequences on their performance.
The second panel, moderated by Jan Hauspie, Editor of the Sport/Voetbalmagazine, showed how a strong cooperation between sports federations and the betting industry was the key in the fight against match fixing. The first guest speaker, Jean-François Reymond (representing EU Athletes) pointed that educating the young athletes not to bet on their own competitions and how to resist on easy money was crucial. Through the Erasmus + Sport Program, his organisation could educate 15,000 athletes and develop athletes-friendly materials such as phone apps or websites. Mark Lichtenstein (from the Sports Rights Owner Coalition) reminded the need for legally binding agreements between sport and operators as well as the creation of a wider world monitoring system to detect irregular betting patterns. Jutta Buyse (from European Lotteries) reminded that European Lotteries were the first European association to develop international cooperation in that regard in 1999. In particular, the Global Lottery Monitoring System (GLMS), built upon the pre-existing European Lottery Monitoring System (ELMS), provides extensive data on sports betting activity to find irregular betting partners and with the view to tackle corruption in sports.
The final speaker of this second panel was Khalid Ali, Secretary General of the European Sports Security Association (ESSA) representing 18 betting companies. He notably revealed that Tennis is the sport suffering most from match fixing according to their data (73 over 100 suspicious alerts in 2015). Moreover, he also explained that the majority of alerts were raised in Europe (followed by Asia and the USA) showing the importance of a reaction at EU and global levels.
The conference ended by a Q&A session, which showed the motivation of all stakeholders to put an end to these fraudulent practices deteriorating the beauty of sport.