Corruption In Sports: Money At Any Cost
Sport is a big phenomenon of today, it is very important part of today life. However, sport is rather contradictory phenomenon. It is connected with big humanistic values and it formats life and values of billions of people on the one side. It is also connected with dirty business, doping, corruption and violence on the other side. Corruption in sport should be matter of concern not of pessimism. We are not speaking about decline of sport values. But we are facing of a new challenge. This challenge is higher as the issue is still not dealt with properly. We may perhaps compare doping in sport with corruption in sport. However, doping has been seriously treated for many years now, with number of experts, scientific background and international co-ordination structures. Nothing of it exists in the area of corruption in sport yet.
Just over a decade after cricket was hit by one its biggest scandals, three Pakistani cricketers were given prison sentences last week by a London court on charges of spotfixing. For the first time in cricket’s history, players face jail terms of between six and 30 months, besides the prospect of never again playing the game. This is in stark contrast to investigations into match-fixing in 2000 where the central figure was the former South African captain, Hansie Cronje. Cricketers from various countries were alleged to have been involved, including a former captain of the Indian team who is now a member of the Indian Parliament. Enquiry commissions were set up in South Africa and Pakistan following the scandal, but most players got away with bans, fines or in some cases just a reprimand. After the events of 2000, cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, set up the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit to tackle the menace of match fixing. But ironically it was a sting operation by the now discredited and defunct News of the World in 2010 which exposed the spot-fixing by the Pakistani cricketers and provided evidence for sentencing.
While cricket with its elaborate rules is particularly prone to spotfixing - where you bet on individual events within the game rather than the result itself - the phenomenon of fixing is hardly confined to cricket. We are at a time when the world of sport seems to be awash in corruption. Earlier this year, prosecutors in South Korea indicted an astonishing 46 football players on charges of fixing matches in the football K-League. According to the South Korean prosecutors, the players received up to US$50,000 for fixing matches, and sometimes even bet on the outcome. In Turkey, the champion club Fenerbahce is at the centre of a match-fixing scandal, having won 16 of its 17 league matches at the end of the season to clinch the title on goal difference. It’s not just sportspersons who are in the dock. Sports administrators all over the world are facing scrutiny. FIFA, football’s governing body and the richest sports association in the world, is in the midst of its biggest scandal. FIFA’s 24-member executive committee, which has had Sepp Blatter at the helm of affairs for 13 long years, is among the most sought after clubs. But this elite club has now been raven apart with influential committee members accused of paying bribes.
The head of the Caribbean and North and Central American region has already resigned. And Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam, who was head of Asia’s football federation, has been banned for life by FIFA’s ethics committee. Bin Hammam is not going down without a fight. He has not only challenged FIFA’a ban but also promised to reveal wrongdoings by Blatter. This has put a question mark over the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively. What many had long suspected about the cronyism and corruption within FIFA is now coming to light.The obvious reason why there are so many corruption scandals involving both players and administrators is the incredible amount of money involved in sport. FIFA’s current annual revenue is now pegged at US$1.3 billion and it even gets tax breaks from Switzerland where it is headquartered. There is plenty of money too in other sports like cricket which enjoys much less global popularity, but is akin to a religion in South Asia. In 2010-11, the Board of Control for Cricket in India generated over US$400 million in revenues. With this kind of money it is not surprising that corruption has eaten into sport. While sports administrators in many parts of the world have never had a great reputation, it is the corruption of players that is more worrying. Many individual sporting disciplines have been tainted by performance enhancing drugs, but that is something the administrators have tried to check by putting in place an elaborate regime of doping tests.
Transparency International has produced this collection of articles, links and information resources to cast a light on the vulnerabilities of the sport world to corruption as well as efforts being undertaken to combat it. We speak with investigative journalists. We look at the mysterious lack of convictions in sports corruption. We examine a book that details the history of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). And we talk about the role of civil society organisations in keeping the beautiful game beautiful. If sport was a largely informal affair a century ago, it has morphed into a full-fledged industry – total costs, including infrastructure, of the 2006 World Cup in Germany are estimated at upwards of • 6 billion (see interview with sport journalist Jens Weinreich). With such increasingly huge sums in play, whether in terms merchandising, sponsorship, betting or athlete salaries, the seduction of and vulnerability to corrupt behaviour has grown. The sport world has responded slowly and, to date, inadequately. It is as serious a threat as doping; only it has the potential to inflict much greater damage on the sport world and the communities, representing billions of people globally, that support it.
Football scandals in Germany, Brazil, Italy, Belgium and China are evidence that the problem is real and it is global. This means that international sports associations such as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must lead the way in terms of systematic enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. FIFA is currently trumpeting the introduction of an Ethics Commission as well as the creation of a commercial firm called Early Warning System designed to detect irregularities in game scoring. These are laudable efforts, but the phenomenon runs deeper than match-fixing. There is a need to address the conflicts of interest that are part and parcel of a familial network of athletic officials that spans the globe. While statements have been made and ethical codes adopted, what is missing is rigorous enforcement and follow-through, including the systematic ejection of tainted officials.
For preventing and eliminating corruption it is important to know the scope of corruption and areas where it occurs. Knowing this it is also important to know patterns under which corruption is predominantly performed. This simple request is not easy to fulfill. When corruption is regarded it is very difficult everywhere, in all sectors of society, to get reliable figures. Especially to get police and judicial statistic, which is successfully used in many other areas of crime and social pathology, do not bring required information. Detected or reported corruption is always only an iceberg of the whole problem and not always indicates correctly areas where corruption is most wide spread. A comprehensive study of this issue would be most desirable. But even for the short study like this one a survey of international press and Internet provides interesting mapping of the problem. It appears that corruption can be found in almost any imaginable areas of sport. The main areas are match fixing, embezzlement or misusing of sport funds, corruption in hosting of games, corruption in changing sport results, corruption in transfers of players, corrupted elections in sporting bodies. We can also mention situations where high sport officials were convicted of corruption in their non-sport activities which is not corruption in sport itself but it certainly influences the sport life.We also keep aside a role of politics in sport which might be very close to political corruption of sport. It represents another very interesting and controversial issue of sport closely related to the issue of corruption in sport.
The model I would go for is something like the Financial Action Task Force, a cooperative body established by governments with the support of the world’s banking system in an attempt to provide some control over the rampant money-laundering that was taking place in the 1980s and 1990s.
Its fundamental strengths are that it is voluntary, it is cooperative and it provides a research base for banks and governments to lodge their observations and their intelligence. It does not operate independently or take action by itself but provides information and assistance to help the governments and banks coordinate their activities.
This, in my view, is the way forward for a global mechanism to tackle match-fixing and betting fraud. It would be in a position to advise sport, sport betting and regulators in a timely fashion of the intelligence collected by them all and put it together into a coherent whole.
For example, any country, sport, betting company or regulator that came into contact with the Singaporean organisation at the heart of so many recent match-fixing investigations, would be able to swap intelligence and liaise over strategy, disrupting their activities and preventing crime before it is even committed.
Disrupting criminals is a modern police technique within countries and we should be applying exactly the same technique to transnational organised crime. Governments already appear to be heading towards a more international approach.
At the Unesco conference of sports ministers in Berlin in May, 137 member countries signed a declaration calling for a strengthening of global action against match-fixing and other forms of corruption in sport.
Unesco was tasked with progressing this statement of intent, but what it really needs is for several sponsoring governments to take a lead on the issue and ensure that the Berlin Declaration is turned into concrete action.
In my view, the government that appears to be showing that greatest interest in the survivability of football is the UK Government, and I would urge it to take up the challenge and be the champion of a global mechanism. The dangers of match-fixing are too great to do nothing.
Chris Eaton, Fifa’s former head of security, is director of sport integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security