ESSA unveils British Integrity plan to European Parliament

Mike O’Kane

The fight against corruption in sport moved up a gear today when ESSA, the body representing most of the world’s biggest regulated betting firms, urged the EU to endorse plans to ensure betting integrity across Europe and to use its standing to promote the approach worldwide.

Unveiling the British Integrity Action Plan at the European Parliament, Mike O’Kane, ESSA Chairman who also Co-Chairs the UK’s new Sports Betting Integrity Forum (SBIF), said it constitutes a “blueprint of good practice and effective detection and enforcement measures to protect sporting events, consumers and regulated betting operators from the negative impact of betting related match-fixing.”

He told Members of the European Parliament, senior European Commission officials, representatives from sport and other major stakeholders, that it was imperative that gambling regulators and law enforcement agencies worked hand-in-glove with sports bodies and regulated betting firms to combat the threats to sporting integrity.

The UK approach includes a comprehensive list of preventative actions that each stakeholder is committed to meeting such as player education and high-level governance in sport, effective risk management for betting operators and thorough investigative and prosecution practices to be employed and enforced by public authorities.

“What we have sought to achieve is a detailed strategic joint approach across all sectors to tackling match-fixing,” O’Kane declared, stressing that the action plan is “crucially committed to information sharing with appropriate national and international authorities. It is imperative that similar practices are adopted not just across the EU, but globally, if we are serious in our desire to drive out those criminal elements that are seeking to manipulate sport to defraud betting operators and consumers.”

“Clearly, where possible, common standards are beneficial and this action plan, developed in one of the foremost sporting and regulatory gambling jurisdictions in the world with a highly effective sports betting integrity model, provides the best potential basis for that,” O’Kane concluded.

The event, which focused on the role of sporting bodies, betting operators and regulatory authorities in combating match-fixing, included a number of other high-level speakers such as Prof Dr Ben Van Rompuy of the ASSER Institute. Prof Van Rompuy, commenting on his most recent work assessing a potential correlation between live (or side betting) and match-fixing, explained that: “Empirical evidence shows that betting related match-fixing predominately relates to the final outcome of a match, not side bets,” and that suggestions that those regulated markets should be restricted were therefore not justified.

Jean-François Reymond, General Secretary of international players’ association EU Athletes, reinforced the importance of player education as “a highly effective intervention measure and vital component of any preventative action.” Whilst Nigel Mawer, Disciplinary Chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) advised the audience that the dangers of match-fixing should be made very clear to players: “The key message should be, if you get caught your career is over.” 

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