“Sport is big business and a definable global economy of itself. However, the governance of sport has not kept pace with its marketing and promotion, making sport a big and juicy plum for the greedy, the unscrupulous and the criminal.”
Chris Eaton, one of the world’s leading experts on corruption in sport, made this statement ahead of the 5th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS V) scheduled to take place in Berlin on May 28 to 30, 2013.
Eaton said that corruption in sport has gone beyond “traditional” match fixing, or gambling conspiracies by a few players or a referee.
“It is now absolutely over-shadowed by criminals—including organized crime—infiltrating sport to serially corrupt results for betting fraud purposes. This is a relatively new development, driven primarily by an exploding international sports-gambling economy, and introduces crime challenges that sport alone can never prevent,” said Eaton.
Eaton warned that “as sport marches on with global marketing and sponsorship and at the same time demands its independence, neither basic nor best-practice international business principles are adequately if ever applied by many to their governance or competitions. It’s like a ‘gold rush’, with the law being left behind.”
He cited a number of governments and organizations that have taken action in countering international organized crime in sport:
Australia, for clear and focused multi-jurisdictional legislation on the misuse of sport and gambling, and for the creation of a national investigation coordination me-chanism into sport corruption in the country;
Korea, for its cross-sport and multi-agency national response to corruption identified in several sports during the same period;
Germany, for the so-called “Bochum investigation”, which was the first to apply an anti-organized crime response to what they identified as an organized crime problem;
The UK, for a robust internal almost cultural resistance to corruption within sport and for effective gambling oversight and for betting operator cooperation with sport and law enforcement;
China, for taking swift action on corruption in their football organization and applying strong and telling crime sanctions;
Russia, for its recognition at the highest levels that it has a problem and for its new anti-match fixing legislation as it prepares for the Winter Olympics and the World Cup;
Qatar, for creating an independent and neutral not-for-profit organization focused on sport security, safety and integrity, my organization “the ICSS”, which has filled a surprising international gap;
INTERPOL, for partnering with sport to provide a law enforcement profile to awareness and preventative training of players, officials and administrators;
The Pieth Committee into FIFA Governance, which has recommended a vigorous platform of governance and related reforms in football. These are a good model for the reform of all sport bodies in this environment; and
SportAccord, for joining all sport in a common policy framework and for its on-line anti-corruption training package.
Eaton said that these best practices must be “taken collectively, applied vigorously and globally,” if they are to work at the international level, and that UNESCO is well placed to cohere and focus the international debate on sport corruption through the unique forum of the sports ministers, and to facilitate the development of an international protective mechanism.