The Council of Europe’s convention on the manipulation of sports competitions seeks to combat the threat of match fixing and protect the integrity of sport. The EU wishes to become a party to the convention and has published two draft Council decisions to conclude the convention, one of which relates to justice and home affairs matters.
The Government have decided not to opt in to the justice and home affairs provision set out in the draft EU Council decision to conclude, on behalf of the EU, the Council of Europe convention on the manipulation of sports competitions with regard to matters related to substantive criminal law and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. This decision cites a title V legal base and therefore the opt-in applies.
The convention requires that EU member states have provisions in place to regulate the act of sports betting and to combat the manipulation of sports competitions in relation to sports betting—including provisions to make those acts criminal offences—and to apply those provisions extraterritorially (which can be derogated).
Only one discussion has taken place on this draft decision, in September 2017, during Estonia’s presidency of the EU Council, with no further negotiations having been scheduled, and with no timetable presented for adoption. The Government placed a scrutiny reservation on this decision at that discussion which remains in place.
A draft EU Council decision with regard to matters related to substantive criminal law and judicial co-operation in criminal matters was published in 2015 for the EU to sign the convention and, at that time, the Government decided to not opt in to the justice and home affairs provision. That decision was also not taken forward for adoption.
While there remains uncertainty as to how the EU might participate in the convention, the Government have taken the decision to maintain their position and not opt in to the justice and home affairs provision in order to preserve the UK’s ability to implement the convention according to national needs, and in particular to preserve the ability to exercise the right of derogation under article 19 of the convention (the extraterritorial application of offences)—preventing the EU from exercising competence on behalf of the UK.
Protecting the integrity of sport is taken seriously by the Government and we view the convention as an important tool in the fight against match fixing. We therefore intend for the UK to become a signatory to the convention later this year.