Betting organisations welcome European Convention on match fixing

Betting organisations welcome European Convention on match fixing

Friday, September 19, 2014 Totally Gaming

Leading organisations from Europe’s regulated gambling industry have welcomed the Council of Europe’s new Convention on match fixing as a positive step, but have raised concerns regarding the compatibility of certain provisions with EU law.

The Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions was declared open for signature yesterday (Thursday) evening at a Council of Europe conference being attended by government ministers from across the continent in Macolin, Switzerland.

The Convention, jointly prepared by the Commission, EU Member States and other members of the Council of Europe, has been established with the aim of preventing and detecting match fixing.

Among the measures include a call on governments across Europe to prevent “conflicts of interest among sports betting operators and sports organisations” and “encourage” sports betting regulatory authorities to “step up the fight against fraud and illegal betting.”

“The Convention rightly addresses match fixing as a cross-border issue that requires international cooperation,” European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) secretary general Maarten Haijer said.

“It is our hope that it will further set the tone for a more effective cooperation between all stakeholders to eradicate match fixing.

“However, we are aware that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has rightly been asked to provide its opinion on the compatibility of the definition of ‘illegal sports betting’ with EU law, and consider that the application of at least this provision should be postponed until the CJEU has provided legal clarity.” 

Delegates heard from a number of sports industry stakeholders during the day, including Michael van Praag (pictured yesterday at the event), who is the chairman of the Club Competitions Commission at football’s European governing body Uefa, and Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister for Youth and Sport and the chief executive of the organising committee for the 2015 Baku European Games.

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), said: “The Convention discussions were at times challenging, with pressure from some stakeholders to introduce a sports betting right and even blanket restrictions on certain bet types.

“The regulated betting sector worked hard to explain why measures of this kind would not make any material difference to the integrity of sport.

“The fact those provisions were not included is testament to the constructive policy adopted by the Council of Europe’s secretariat and many of its Member States. What we have now is a relatively balanced and workable framework, which rightly seeks to reflect the range of existing national regulatory frameworks rather than replace them.

“However there are still a small number of areas that we believe could be improved upon and we hope there will be opportunities to review them in due course.”

Khalid Ali, secretary general of the European Sports Security Association, added: “The Convention is principally focused on addressing the danger to sport and to the regulated betting markets from match-fixing, which primarily emanates from organised international criminal gangs, corrupt sportspeople and the unregulated betting sector.

“As one of the potential victims of that criminal activity, the regulated betting sector welcomes the aims of the Convention, however, it is important that it does impose any unnecessary restrictions that could drive consumers to the unregulated markets.”

As reported by earlier this week, an evidence-based report on sports betting was released by the three associations which found that the “proposal that new markets, such as in-play (or live) betting, offered by regulated betting operators should be restricted or prohibited on sporting integrity grounds does not, given the weight of independent data, appear to be a policy generated from any firm evidence base”.

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