Sports biggest threats-Corruption and Matchfixing
SHENZHEN, August 17, 2011 -Corruption and match-fixing are the "biggest threats to sport ever," Risto Nieminen, the president of the World Lottery Association, said Wednesday during a presentation at a sports reporters' forum.
While doping in sport remains a serious and well-documented issue, Nieminen said it pales in comparison to the grip that corruption now has on sport.
The problem, he said, is endemic in professional sport. Moreover, he said, it is an issue across the globe. And, he said, it takes place in games and matches where fans would least expect it.
"Jacques Rogge (president of the International Olympic Committee) has many times mentioned that corruption and match-fixing in sport are the biggest threats to sport ever. It's much bigger than doping," Nieminen, arguably the world's premier authority on the issue, said.
"That is based on the fact that we are now facing organized crime which uses sport for money laundering and other criminal operations. It's just a fact today and it happens everywhere."Let me guarantee that to you."
Match-fixing is hardly a novel issue. As long ago as 1919, eight players from the Chicago White Sox baseball team were banned for life from baseball after intentionally losing games to allow the Cincinnati Reds to win the World Series.
But the recent commercialization of sport combined with ever-improving information technologies has raised the bar higher, prompting betting and match-fixing to become "a global business," Nieminen said.
Organized-crime syndicates, he said, often targeted athletes who were still in their teens.
Throughout the world, he said, young athletes could be approached by criminals with an offer of "sponsorship funding."
Later in that same athlete's career, he -- or she -- would then be forced to be "pay back" their funders by manipulating sports results.
Nieminen said it was extremely difficult to prove corruption in sport because most sports organizations had little or no transparency when it came to their financial dealings.
"The FBI and Interpol say sport today is the easiest place to launder money in the world because of the huge values that are connected with sport," he said.
Match-fixing is not, however, the only way that sport is being corrupted.
Nieminen also said that betting on live sports events had opened the door to manipulation of matches without affecting the overall result.
He cited professional tennis as an example where a player could deliberately drop the first set before going on to win a particular match with the intention of lengthening the odds on their success midway through the particular event.
"Match fixing is still a special thing. It makes us lose our belief in sport," he said. "Today 60 percent of the market in sports betting is live betting.
"Some athletes think it's okay to maybe lose a set to change the odds because if they win the match they don't think they have done any harm.
"Little by little they are taken by the little finger by organized crime."
He said it was important to make athletes aware of the issues surrounding corruption and also introduce ethical codes to help them understand the appropriate way to react to overtures from criminals. There is now a move to monitor the activity of betting on sport across the globe and also, Nieminen said, a push for more legislation.
Nieminen also challenged journalists to help uncover the corruption in sport.
"It's not like 100 years ago when there was one case here and one case there. The problem now is that the whole of top level sports can be corrupted now," he said.
"It goes down to the sports' roots.
"Without the help of the media, we will not be able to solve the problem of corruption in sport.
"If we let corruption go on, we will spoil it all."