The world’s major sporting bodies have taken the first steps to set up a global body to combat sports betting corruption, which they have identified as a greater threat to sporting integrity than doping.
So serious are concerns about match-fixing and gambling corruption in sport that the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), which includes the highest profile representatives of football, rugby and cricket, met in Brussels last week to deliver a report to the European Union designed to protect the future of sport.
At the centre of the plan is a global anti-corruption agency which will be able to use state powers of investigation, force strict licensing on bookmakers and, ultimately, have the power to exclude nations that did not comply from major tournaments such as the World Cup.
„The meeting in Brussels saw the international sports community unite to urge politicians to apply the same focus to tackling betting corruption as they have to doping,“ said an adviser to the British National Governing Bodies of Sport.
„Just as the fight against doping turned the corner when every country’s government signed up to take action, a similar approach is needed with sports betting. This means that an approach similar to that taken by the World Anti-Doping Agency is needed.
„Match-fixing is worse than doping because it is cheating to lose, rather than cheating to win.“
All the heavyweights of world sport were represented at the meeting – Fifa, Uefa, the Premier League, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the International Rugby Board and British horse racing – with fears growing about the way the internet has enabled access to foreign bookmakers that do not fall under national jurisdiction.
The Football Association, for example, called a halt to their investigation into alleged match-fixing in the Oct 4 Norwich City v Derby County game on Friday, having failed to gain significant information from any Asian bookmakers on which extraordinary betting patterns were observed.
„They have limited investigative power and capability within England,“ said Graham Bean, former FA compliance officer, „but as soon as they cross the border they are absolutely powerless.“