Monday, October 1, 2012

What is Missing from the Nicosia Declaration

On September 20, 2012 the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Commissioner responsible for Sport and the participants in the EU Sport Forum 2012 issued a joint declaration on match fixing - called the Nicosia Declaration:
Match-fixing constitutes one of the most serious threats to contemporary sport, undermining the fundamental values of integrity, fair play and respect for others. It is a growing and pressing problem affecting many Member States and many sports. Addressing the issue requires urgent, concerted, and coordinated efforts from public authorities, the sport movement and betting operators.
The short declaration highlighted five areas of emphasis:
  • Education, Prevention and Good Governance
  • Monitoring
  • Sanctions
  • Cooperation
  • International coordination
While the declaration is of course welcome, it has a large oversight in that it does not define "match fixing" in any way that would have meaning in policy making. Does match fixing only refer to associations with gambling? With a violation of fair play? Is match fixing a substantive problem? Or is it procedural?

The lastest allegations of high-profile match fixing come from French handball:
Olympic gold medallists who thrilled London crowds with their skill over the summer were among 12 French handball players arrested over match-fixing allegations today.

In dramatic scenes in Paris, they were stopped by plainclothes police during a game before being driven away for questioning.

Among them was Nikola Karabatic, the 28-year-old originally from Serbia who moved to France when he was three and is now Olympic, World and European champion.

All are suspected of getting family members, including wives and girlfriends, to place money in betting shops across France during key games.

There is little financial reward in a sport like handball, and investigators believe they may have been fixing bets to rake in thousands of euros.
The Nicoisa Declaration is a small step towards recognizing the importance of dealing with match fixing in sport, but the design and implementation of effective procedures, particularly in an international context, is going to require a lot more.

Writing at Transparency International, the always smart Sylvia Schenk offered a largely compatible analysis:
In the past two years, the world of sport and politics finally woke up to the fact that match fixing is a serious threat to the integrity and popularity of sport and the livelihoods of all those involved in sport, especially professional and amateur athletes.

The result is a flurry of international dialogues and initiatives, including a number of law enforcement partnerships and the “Nicosia declaration on the fight against match-fixing” just approved by the European Union-Sportforum under the Cyprian Presidency.

These are welcome steps. We now have serious political muscle brought to bear on a problem that has mushroomed globally, primarily because of the massive increase in sports revenues, international betting and the growth of organised crime in this area.

But sometimes I fear that many of these efforts are primarily focused on blaming the athletes, without enough attention given to the problematic circumstances they face in their respective sports and that this focus distracts from the continued lack of good governance at the top of sport organisations.
I have set forth on an academic paper on match fixing as a policy problem, so there will will more here as that goes forward ... stay tuned.


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