Michiel Willems LLM MA is based in central London as an international journalist in broadcast and print. With global study and work experience and an open mind, he works as a freelance writer, radio reporter and full time journalist. He has developed an interest in the stories behind the news, the facts behind the stories and the people behind the facts.
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Friday, 27 April 2012
London Olympics “not immune” to match fixing
Olympic Stadium in East London
LONDON - With less than hundred days to go before the London 2012 Olympic Games commence, organisers, gambling businesses and sports federations are stepping up efforts to stem match fixing and suspicious betting patterns ahead of the Olympic Games, which kick off on 27 July in East London.
On 23 April, James Cook, Corporate Affairs Officer at the UK Gambling Commission, confirmed that “we are in the final stages of agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding with ARJEL”, the French regulatory body on match fixing. ARJEL and the GCwant to reach a co-operation and information sharing agreement ahead of the Olympics, which will address “co-operation and information sharing across all issues of common interest, including protecting the integrity of sports betting”, Cook said.
Andrew Danson, a Senior Associate at K&L Gates in London, welcomed the Memorandum since “the International Olympic Committee and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games are right to be concerned”.
"International intelligence sharing and co-operation amongst all organisations is vital”, commented Tom Burrows, Solicitor at Paris Smith in Southampton. “The International Olympic Committee and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games are not equipped to deal with the reach of these criminal elements alone.”
Sporting heroes or criminals?
To assume that the Olympics are “immune to sporting fraud is one of the biggest risks”, added Mike Morgan, a Senior Associate at Squire Sanders in London.
The co-operation between the Gambling Commissionand the French comes only weeks after the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games met with leading UK gambling and gaming businesses to address the threat of illegal gambling activities during the Olympics. On 20 March, Paquerette Girard Zappelli, the IOC’s Head of Ethics, Nick Tofiluk, of the UK Gambling Commission, and Kendrah Potts, the lead lawyer on betting and doping at the London Organising Committee, met with representatives from the UK gambling and gaming industry in central London.
Burrows welcomed the meeting since he thinks that operators “should be an equal partner with the sports bodies, regulators and police in preventing corruption as it is in their interest to have a ‘clean’ sport”.
Match fixing regularly makes headlines
But “a lot still needs to and can be done”, thinks Morgan. “The fight against fraud is still in its infancy and the efforts made by sports, public authorities and betting companies are not as harmonised as they could be.” Morgan adds that “the betting industry should take a serious look at the level of sport on which bets can be placed. Athletes and officials on low salaries are among the most vulnerable to approaches from fixers”.
Danson stresses more “international police engagement is needed to conduct undercover operations and detailed analysis of phone records and financial transactions.”
Last January, it was announced that the International Olympic Committee, the UK Gambling Commission, the Metropolitan Police, the Border Agency and a number of gambling operators have started to meet on a daily basis, to analyse and discuss suspicious betting patterns. They will continue to so during the Olympic Games, to evaluate whether any athletes are intentionally underperforming for personal gain.
Danson is convinced that a number of sports governing bodies “need to catch up” with their anti-corruption measures. “Too many do not yet have proper education programmes, anti-corruption rules, investigatory bodies or enforcement procedures. After all, there is no doping test for corruption.”