Bosses from the British Horseracing Authority were among the sporting administrators taking part in yesterday’s spot fixing summit called by the Government’s culture secretary Maria Miller. Adam Brickell represented the horseracing industry, along with people from the governing bodies of football, cricket, rugby league, rugby union and tennis.
Miller had summoned the sporting chiefs following recent claims of spot fixing in football. She said, “Match-fixing is a real threat to the integrity of sport. If fans don't trust what they see, the integrity of sport will be permanently damaged. I asked the major sports to come in today to discuss what more can be done to tackle this. It was a very constructive meeting on a serious issue and there was a clear commitment from all to work together and see what more can be done.”
The focus of yesterday’s meeting was on sharing concerns about fixing, discussing measures already in place to tackle it, and for the government to set out what it sees as its role in fighting the problem.
Spot fixing occurs when a player sets out to make sure a particular event happens during the course of a game/race, allowing betting on that, rather than the final outcome. It’s a problem that racing, along with cricket, has had to face up to over the last few years. As a result, those two sports have some well established procedures in place to educate participants about the possibility of an approach and how to deal with the situation should it arise.
Racing’s efforts drew praise from Football Association general secretary Alex Horne, who said on the FA website after the meeting, “There is a lot we can learn from other sports. Some of the education programmes that cricket have put in place are very far advanced and the integrity unit that the BHA have put in place is very far advanced.
There is a lot of learning there open to all sports.”
Anyone suspected of corruption has to be dealt with under civil laws to do with fraud. Some administrators called for a change in the law to make spot fixing a criminal offence, but Miller showed no enthusiasm for that. Her view was that effective measures that allowed action to be taken were in place; at the moment that was enough.
Brickell’s comments echoed that steady as she goes approach. He said, “We agree with the secretary of state that education forms a key part of any integrity strategy and is a subject that warrants reviewing on an ongoing basis to ensure it is appropriate and effective. Extensive measures for educating participants in racing are already in place but, as with all areas, we recognise there is always scope to learn from others and make further improvements.”
That sounds a little too complacent to me, even though racing is to the forefront of the fight. I’d like to see sport administrators working together to anticipate more extensive problems and have some measures in place to deal with them. Yesterday’s meeting appears to have been a cosy chat designed to show that the government is responding quickly to an issue, without requiring anyone to do anything differently.