Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the British Olympic Association, a member of the Olympic Board and a director of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.
When IOC president Jacques Rogge stated that corrupt betting, not doping, was the biggest threat to the London 2012 Olympic Games, his opinion was read by some to be surprising and unexpected. From my perspective, his words were intended to send a signal to Governments, the Olympic family and, above all, the athletes proactively to take seriously a potential scourge that could seriously damage the reputation of the Olympic Games and the integrity of Olympic sport in the 21st century.
Today’s debate provides us with an opportunity to assess how well prepared we are for this threat to sporting competition. To date, we have taken only a few tentative steps towards addressing how sport can best mount a counterattack against suspicious betting and event fixing in Olympic and Paralympic sport.
Over recent years, this threat to sport has grown. Significant changes in the betting market during the past decade have provided increased opportunities for those who seek to engage in corrupt betting on sport. Internet betting and new betting platforms—exchange and spread betting—have resulted in increased liquidity in the betting markets and the opportunity for punters to play the bookmaker and bet on teams, individuals and horses to lose. Above all, the industry is increasingly designing every conceivable type of bet, and the greatest danger comes from bets available on specific events that occur “in play” and are televised globally
The strongest and most effective response in the United Kingdom came from the Parry report—a review of integrity in sports betting. It recognised what has become commonplace in the financial sector, where the misuse of inside information—insider dealing—is a criminal offence, and proven breaches are likely to result in a criminal prosecution overseen by the FSA. That remains a far cry from the world of sport, where there is no generic definition of inside information. The lack of any clarity on this issue poses a major problem for the Olympic movement. As your Lordships will be aware, there are various types of inside information, and sport rules need to cater for them. The most obvious is match fixing. Being in possession of inside information that will bear directly on the outcome of the events enables punters to place a bet, safe in the knowledge that it will win.
There are, however, other types of inside information open to abuse that do not bear directly on the final result of the event. Such information may be used for what is known as spot fixing, whereby inside information is misused to bet on certain acts taking place during the course of an event, although those acts may have no bearing on the eventual result of the event. The recent conviction of three Pakistan cricketers for arranging no-balls to be delivered at certain fixed points of the Lords test match against England is an illustration of that sort of inside information, as they knew those no-balls were going to be bowled at that stage of the England innings, which in turn proved very useful information for corrupt betting purposes.
The Parry review led to the establishment of the Sports Betting Group, which advises the British Olympic Association. I pay tribute to that group, which includes Darren Bailey, Simon Barker, Ian Smith, Paul Scotney, James MacDougall and Tim Lamb, for its work on this issue, and its advice to us at the British Olympic Association and to the athletes that we will select to represent Team GB. The Parry review made further recommendations that are relevant to our debate and merit consideration by the Government. The review called for an ongoing risk assessment process, and constant and effective monitoring of betting patterns. This summer that must mean constant monitoring of every televised event in the Olympic Games, and cover every heat and every final.
The decision to establish a joint working party between the Gambling Commission and one IOC representative to undertake that work is a start, but the 205 national Olympic committees and the Paralympic committees need to know what process will be followed when strong evidence of irregular or illegal betting is discovered. To date, there is no guidance on whether the athlete, the coach or the team chef de mission will be immediately informed and what should be done with that information. The athlete may be innocent, but there is no guidance for national Olympic committees, let alone established rules and procedures to follow. At the British Olympic Association, we have embarked on our own far reaching educational programmes and embedded codes of conduct to be signed by every athlete selected to participate in the British team but, for many British athletes, this will be the first time that they know the rules regarding the scope of their ability to place a bet on the Olympic Games; whether their coaches or families can place a bet on another sport in the Olympic calendar; or what to do if they are approached to fix a competition, or part of it, and to whom to report.
A universal code of conduct is required urgently if the scourge predicted by president Jacques Rogge is not to become reality. The IOC's founding working group on the fight against irregular and illegal sports betting has made an important start. Both the Minister for Sport and I sit on that body. Its challenge is to ensure that, before London, the Olympic movement moves from broad generalisations to a detailed action plan and advice to the athletes, international federations and national Olympic committees alike.
We need ongoing programmes of education and awareness-raising for all sports participants, particularly on the dangers of the misuse of inside information. It is regrettable that, in all the forums working on that issue, the principal stakeholders—the athletes—are not represented, as they are central to resolving that challenge. A handful of athletes may be the problem. The overwhelming majority of athletes—those of the highest integrity and desirous of contributing to the fight against threats to their sport—are a vital part of the solution. It is notable that the biggest problem by far in cricket is in the three jurisdictions where there is no player association: India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
For London 2012, the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, and his colleagues are to be congratulated. The system for the London 2012 Games exceeds any which has been seen before at a multisport event and includes the establishment of a joint assessment unit, which will monitor betting intelligence throughout the period of the Games. Although the progress which has been made by the Gambling Commission and the IOC should be applauded, there is a need to ensure that the communication and disciplinary procedures which will operate at the time of the Games are robust. At present, guidance is needed from the Government on a range of related issues. I put the following questions to the Minister.
What is the process for analysing and reviewing the credibility of any evidence discovered by the joint assessment unit? Are there plans to monitor live betting activity? Will independent experts be recruited to review evidence? Will data be collected in advance of the Games of the betting patterns across both Olympic and Paralympic sports? What procedures will be adopted by the IOC to notify national Olympic committees of any adverse betting activity within their delegations? Are there plans to carry out scenario planning and testing for the JAU? That will be invaluable for all stakeholders to understand how communication processes will work and to test the processes for analysing evidence.
It is not clear whether the IOC Ethics Commission has sufficient understanding of suspicious betting and the appropriate mechanisms in place to act effectively. For example, it worries me that the frequent use of the word “irregular” is often linked by the IOC to illegal betting. The proper definition should be suspicious betting. The reason why that is misleading is that history shows that the challenge for the majority of sports is suspicious betting on legal markets. Irregular betting patterns are a normal everyday phenomenon of all betting markets and can be caused by a number of factors that are not to do with corruption, including the volume of money. Although betting-related corruption on illegal markets can be a problem, that is mainly in the sport of cricket. Recent betting-related scandals in horse racing, football and snooker have all been on legal markets, both traditional fixed odds and the betting exchanges.
We also need to address the problem that many bookmakers operating in the UK do so over the internet and are based overseas in places such as Gibraltar and Malta. That means that they avoid the UK licensing regime as well as tax. As a result, those operators are not statutorily obliged to share information with the Gambling Commission and sports governing bodies. I support Matthew Hancock who, in another place, is urging the Government to put those proposals into effect as soon as possible. Additionally, the existing definition of cheating in the Gambling Act 2005 is not, in my view, fit for purpose. A specific sports fraud definition is necessary. The Parry report was once again right in that respect.
I have sought to set out a few essential components of a comprehensive programme to meet the challenge set out by the president of the IOC. The central threat to the 2012 events is that many of the participants and officials will come from countries where corrupt individuals will pay a life-changing amount of money, which can be as little as $5,000, without thinking as they know that they can make 10 times that, particularly by betting on the exchanges, if they know that someone will definitely not be winning. The use of specific inside information that someone will not be winning an event for any number of reasons is gold dust to those in corrupt betting.
We need a sporting landscape in which universal rules are formulated to tackle betting-related corruption— a landscape that recognises the importance of ongoing monitoring and assessment of the risk that all Olympic sports face from corrupt betting, particularly the misuse of inside information.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is indeed to be thanked for asking this crucial Question and giving us such a comprehensive overview.
With the Olympic Games just a few months away, the threat of match-fixing tactics and suspicious betting grows even greater. In a more perfect world, where Corinthian ideals still prevailed, there would be no need for us to have this debate but, sadly, that dark shadow threatens to undermine public confidence in our Games. Cheating appears to many to be endemic in some sports, with only the most vigorous and determined detection unveiling wrongdoing. Faith in the integrity of athletes and those around them has to be maintained. We bid for the Games not only for the privilege of holding them in London but also to provide a high-profile shop window for sport and to inspire and motivate all of us—perhaps most importantly young people—to become physically active. The prospect of an Olympics where cheats may be seen to prosper is unthinkable. Thus, the role of Her Majesty's Government is vital. Only they have powers to act as guardian of sporting integrity. They are faced with unprecedented gambling on sport on a global scale, where international vigilance is needed to combat cheats.
In order to put questions to the Government, I will look at the relatively short history of the Gambling Commission, set up under the Gambling Act 2005, to the present day. Under the Act, the commission has powers to prosecute offences of cheating and to void bets. Any money paid in relation to illegal bets must be returned to the person who paid it. The commission's work on betting integrity has a licence condition which requires betting operators to share information of suspicious transactions with the commission and with sports governing bodies.
At present, the Gambling Commission regulates most gambling activities in the UK. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, remote gambling is a different proposition. Those operators who offer services to British customers but operate entirely from overseas are not subject to regulation by the commission.
In 2009, Gerry Sutcliffe, the then Minister for Sport, established a panel of experts to consider the integrity of sports betting. As a result of their deliberations, a sport betting group was set up administered by the Sport and Recreation Alliance—long known to us old hands as the CCPR—and it, in its turn, established a set of voluntary procedures to constitute a code of practice. That code seeks to help sports to understand and react accordingly to the threat posed by betting.
Moving on in this reflective passage, the DCMS’s Consultation on the Regulatory Future of Remote Gambling in Great Britain, which came out in March 2010, strengthens the constraints on operators, promising primary legislation for a new licensing system. Following an inquiry by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, the Government made a response promising further action. Most recently, Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, asserted that Her Majesty’s Government intend to establish a unit to target suspicious betting at the Olympic Games.
All those assurances are designed to give confidence that the Olympic Games will be comprehensively protected, but can that be the case? Is it not evident that the Government’s response is classically too little, too late? With only weeks to go, it would appear that the promised legislation is unlikely to be in place, so where will the protection be that is legally enforceable? Are the Government satisfied with the Sport and Recreation Alliance backing a voluntary code of conduct for the governing bodies? What safeguards does such a code provide? And what of the international aspect of illegal betting? What pan-European strategies are in place? Do we enlist the co-operation of our European neighbours to help us to enforce a clean Olympic Games? Are we, indeed, already speaking to our European neighbours? If recent actions at the European summit are anything to go by, it is unlikely that the warmest co-operation will be forthcoming.
Spreading even further abroad, worldwide co-operation is essential. What progress have the Government established with Governments who agree with us about the importance of integrity in sport? What progress has been made by policing units and government departments in setting up appropriate strategies for prevention and detection? All these questions, and many more, remain unanswered. The general public demand those answers.
We appear to have a Sports Minister who is rapidly running out of time and a Government who are running out of ideas, all of which fills me with total apprehension regarding the security of the Games. I wait to be told that I am wrong. All the nation’s sporting bodies need a detailed account of the Government’s pledges so that we can be reassured that the Games are not only fit for purpose but a beacon of integrity for all of us to look forward to.
My Lords, when I saw the subject of this debate, I initially thought, “Oh, yes. That will be a problem this time, won’t it?”. When most of us think about betting, we do not think about the Olympic Games or the Games structure; we always think about certain activities. Traditionally it was racing but it has now expanded into football, with possibly boxing or the other martial arts being dominant.
The Olympic Games have not had the best of records, in ancient or modern times, when it comes to the integrity of the events. Not only has there been the great problem of doping but at times question marks have been raised over the impartiality of judges in any sport that requires judging. Casting my mind back to when Torvill and Dean were winning everything, I remember that one or two judges from the eastern bloc gave them high scores and were never seen on the international circuit again. There is a tradition of prestige in controlling what happens.
Now, we have a new threat, which basically is money. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out—or, at least, he made it clear to me—that the issue of money involves not just the medallists. The fact is that there is money to be made in an obscure market by making sure that an athlete who has made the grade to be a competitor but is expected to reach only the semi-finals does not get that far. One has only to look at the number of events to realise how many attempts can be made to interfere with the odds process by removing the competition at certain points. That is the challenge that faces us.
The noble Lord did an excellent job of going through the activity that has taken place, but I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, is correct that, as has always been the case, we are playing catch-up to events. We are in a reactive phase and have been for quite a long time. The previous Government may have started this but they still said, “Oh, there’s a bus ahead. I’m belting after it”. How much effort are we putting in to catch up? Perhaps the Government can give us some assurances about how they are progressing in this respect. The answer to this is surely to be open with information and share information in order to see where the flows of money and pressure are and what we should be looking at.
There was the example of a tennis match a few years ago when the person who was ahead suddenly dropped out. On that occasion, people were aware that something was wrong because it became clear from the betting markets. We have a huge ally here—the legitimate bookmakers, who are trying to make money out of their business, and accessing them is probably the best tool that the Government have available. They will not want to be ripped off, and those interfering in the markets will probably be targeting them predominantly. There is a huge mutual interest here in counteracting this problem. We have to make sure, as the noble Lord pointed out, that the representatives of the sports are looked after and remunerated properly, as that, too, is another defence against corruption in sport, as has been proven in the past.
We must take a holistic approach to this problem. Prevention will be better than cure here. It will be necessary to make sure that all countries that have athletes who are capable of winning or influencing the various stages are looked after, and the IOC itself is going to have to look after them. How the Government play into this is vital. There is a history of people trying to change things for the purposes of prestige and profit. Unless the Government encourage greater openness so that we are all aware of what is going on, people will find a way through. We need to put pressure on those who want to be associated with Britain—for example, Gibraltar and Malta—and make sure that we have total access to, and some way of dealing with, irregularities in betting there. That might be a way for those places to reassert how favourably they feel towards Great Britain and how much they want to be involved. I could put it much more strongly than that but life is too short. Perhaps my noble friend can give us some guidance on what we are doing on all these fronts.
One of the primary aims of the Olympics is to create a legacy. It is a legacy of how to deal with an existing problem and a legacy that will continue not only in relation to the Olympics but in relation to all future British sporting events. I hope that when my noble friend comes to reply she will be able to tell us what progress has been made in getting all those involved to pass on all the information they can to the relevant authority. Can she also tell us how soon they will be able to do that and how they will encourage the flow of that information? That is really the only way in which we can nullify, if not stop, the impact of corrupt betting.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for raising these very important questions and I apologise for the state of my voice. I declare two relevant interests in this debate. First, I am the Senior Independent Director of G4S Plc, which is the Olympic security contractor, but, more relevant to today’s debate on a personal and voluntary basis, I am a sports integrity adviser to LOCOG.
I do not share some of the pessimism that I have heard so far. I believe that London 2012 will be match-fit to deal with the threat of sports event fixing for betting purposes. Yes, there is a great deal to be done but one should not underestimate the huge amount of work that has been done so far. I am certainly not complacent. Vigilance remains the watchword but a great deal of thought, scenario planning, discussion and comprehensive planning has already taken place and continues to take place.
Based on my sports integrity work with international sports bodies in recent years, I believe and recommend that four things have to be in place to combat fixing for betting purposes. This applies to sport generally, but certainly to major events like the Olympics.
First, the criminal law and the sports disciplinary codes must be unambiguous and provide clear guidance and clear offences which may be involved in the event of fixing being alleged or suspected. There can be no ambiguity about what is and what is not allowed either in the criminal law or in the discipline codes of the sports. Certainly, we saw in the prosecution of the errant Pakistan cricketers how the criminal law could be used successfully in the United Kingdom. For the first time, the International Olympic Committee at this Olympics has adopted in its code of ethics comprehensive rules against betting and cheating at sport. These rules will complement the codes of behaviour that are being enforced by the individual sports federations. The regulatory framework, while not perfect, is certainly beginning to be put in place and is more fit for purpose in the London 2012 Olympics than in any previous Olympic Games.
Secondly, there is a need for a comprehensive education programme to raise the awareness of competitors and officials to the risks posed and the methods used by the fixers to groom and entice them into wrongdoing. Some sports are more advanced than others. They have had to be. Cricket and tennis have very comprehensive education programmes for everyone who plays international sport. Much has been done but much still needs to be done to raise awareness. I know that the International Olympic Committee and international federations know that they must do more in the build-up to the Olympics. Raising awareness and education is one of the vital ways of combating fixing in sport.
Thirdly, intelligence on fixing needs to be gathered, analysed, shared and, if necessary, turned into action. This is where there has been a great deal of work which perhaps has not been given sufficient publicity so far. We have planned, scenario-planned, modelled and looked at a variety of situations. During the Games an innovative joint assessment unit—JAU—will be formed. It will meet every day and comprise staff from LOCOG, the Gambling Commission, the Metropolitan Police, the UK Border Agency and the IOC Ethics Commission. There will be daily meetings to gather, share and assess all the relevant information and patterns on fixing and gambling coming in from whatever source—betting agencies, police agencies or the Gambling Commission.
Fourthly, there is a need to have the capacity to take swift and effective enforcement action. I can confidently report that the joint assessment unit has, in its planning and modelling, looked at the whole range of possible scenarios for our Olympics that could trigger criminal investigations and/or IOC investigations and individual sports federation investigations if and when required. Clearly there is no room for complacency, but a great deal of thought and preparation has already taken place and will grow in intensity over the next few weeks.
What is the level of threat to the Games by the fixers? Sports fixtures are not vanity or status fixers: they are not, like a train spotter or a bird spotter, seeking to fix an event at an Olympics because it is a prestigious event. They are grubby, seedy, mainly criminal people who look to make their sports fix wherever and whenever they can. They will target the Olympics only if they think that there are new or very easy opportunities to fix compared with the huge volume of betting and potential fixing that takes place every day of every year.
We must be vigilant, we must be prepared and we must do well, but let us not talk down our Olympics or over-scare about the size or reality of the threat. There is a bigger threat of fixing to sport generally than at the Olympics, because the bad guys are not stupid. They realise that it will probably be harder to fix at the Olympics than at a routine international event anywhere else in the world in a normal year, provided that they can bet and fix. We will remain vigilant and implement a very innovative joint assessment unit. Working together, we will do our very best to minimise the opportunities for the fixers to sour the atmosphere and integrity of London 2012. Your Lordships would expect or demand nothing less. Let us not talk down our Olympics unrealistically. Let us be proportionate about the threat and the response. I believe that although there is a great deal still to be done, a great deal has already been done, and I am confident that there will be a wonderful Games.
My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on giving us the opportunity to debate this very important subject. He may not be aware of the significance of today’s date. It was seven years ago exactly—9 February 2005—when the report of the inquiry into the effects of betting on sport, which I chaired on behalf of the Parliamentary All-Party Betting and Gaming Group, was published.
Your Lordships may remember that that inquiry arose out of the work of the Joint Scrutiny Committee on the Draft Gambling Bill, on which I served. The scrutiny committee had had drawn to its attention a number of allegations over the integrity of betting in a number of sports but did not have time to go into them in detail. The all-party group asked me to chair the inquiry to look at the incidence of, and potential for, irregular and corrupt betting on sports and the proper use of inside information. We took evidence from a number of very distinguished witnesses, one of whom was the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who spoke just a moment ago. Our report contained 15 specific recommendations. I have to tell your Lordships that while a number of these recommendations have been accepted—by government, sports governing bodies or by betting organisations—several have still to be implemented seven years on. They have a direct relevance to this debate today.
Let me deal with just three of them. We proposed that there should be a proper definition of cheating. That call, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, was echoed in the report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel set up by the Government and chaired by Rick Parry in 2010. Indeed, it was the very first recommendation that the panel made in its report. There is no evidence that the definition of cheating in the Gambling Act 2005 has yet been reviewed, and more needs to be done to investigate and prosecute those who are suspected of this crime.
A second recommendation of ours was that sport should have a direct involvement in determining the type of bets that may be facilitated and that these should be incorporated in future and existing memoranda of understanding between sports and betting organisations. The risk with the Olympics is enormous. All the major betting organisers have said that they will be taking bets on all the events. A lot of that will be spot and so called “in running” betting. These are bets on an event as it happens. The odds are adjusted after the event starts and are continually updated. It is unlikely that many bets will be placed after the start of the 100 metres race, but on something like a marathon or an event based on, say, the best of three attempts, the scope for betting as it takes place is very considerable.
We have seen recently how cricket was corrupted by players taking bribes to do something unusual—in this case bowling no-balls in a test match—to ensure that punters who knew what was going to happen won their bets. The inquiry that I chaired came to the conclusion that there was no one better to judge what sorts of bet should be permitted than the sports governing bodies, as they more than anyone should be able to understand how their sports integrity could be threatened. I asked the Gambling Commission whether any progress had been made in this area. The commission wrote to me on Tuesday and said that the betting operators that it licensed,
“face no restrictions as to the types of bets that can be offered”.
I put it to the Minister that this is an unsatisfactory and dangerous situation, and I hope that she will be able to offer some reassurances about it.
The third area is the exchange of information and the licensing of overseas betting operators. The situation here, too, is unsatisfactory and poses a risk to the integrity of the Olympics. Recommendation 6 in our 2005 report was that all major betting operators should sign MoUs with the sports on which they based their business. In some respects this has been a great success. The Gambling Commission's licence condition 15.1 makes provision for the exchange of information between licensed operators and sports governing bodies. This has generally worked well and has brought to light—and to the Gambling Commission's attention—a number of irregular betting patterns and events, particularly in horseracing.
Even though it is now licensed in Gibraltar, the betting exchange company Betfair made much of the large number of MoUs that it had signed with sports governing bodies around the world. The company is part of the IOC's working group investigating irregular and illegal betting in sport. That is fine, and it seems that Betfair does as much as it would legally be required to do if it was still licensed in the UK. However, the situation with Gibraltar as a whole is less satisfactory. There is still no MoU in place between its regulator and the Gambling Commission, although there may be one by the time of the Olympics. While it is positive about its operators getting involved with the European Sports Security Association, the exchange of information is hampered by Gibraltar's data protection legislation, and licensed operators such as the bookmaker Victor Chandler are not even members of the ESSA.
The Government are supposed to be tackling this by introducing legislation aimed at shifting regulation to the point of consumption, which would have the effect of ensuring that all operators that serve UK-based customers would have to be licensed by the Gambling Commission. That would bring Gibraltar and the white-listed jurisdictions together and would lessen the risk of corrupt or irregular betting practices. Bodies such as the Alderney Gambling Control Commission—I declare a past interest as I advised the commission some years ago—have an exemplary record of promoting integrity. However, that cannot be said of all those who need to be brought into the net. It is a great pity that this new primary legislation will not be in place for the Olympics. I hope that nothing awful occurs during the Games that could have been prevented had the Government found time for such a Bill.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for securing the debate. I will declare my interests; I am vice-chair of the London 2012 athletes committee, I work with LOCOG in several areas, I sit on the boards of UK Athletics and the London marathon, and I am involved in several other sporting organisations.
I was fortunate to be in Singapore in 2005 when the bid was won. No one underestimated the logistical task of organising 1,000 sessions across 46 sports in the two Games. It is important as we go through the landmarks leading up to the start of the Olympic and Paralympic Games—this Saturday will be 200 days away from the start of the Paralympics—that we not only celebrate the successes along the way but bear in mind the challenges that might be thrown in our path. There is plenty to celebrate. LOCOG’s diversity programme has set new standards for procurement, inclusion of disabled people in the workforce, accessibility of venues and customer services. However, we will be remembered not just for organising a great Games but for the other work that we do.
The threat to the Games is relatively minor, but that should not stop us looking at this important issue. A number of stakeholders are focused on tackling match fixing, both from a sport and criminal perspective: the IOC, the IPC, LOCOG, the Government, the Metropolitan Police and the Gambling Commission. However, support is needed to continue this work. We have only to look at the recent court cases in sport to understand that there is a risk that must be managed. Sports people are held up as beacons of virtue but they also need to be protected, along with the integrity of their sport. Spectators need to know that medals have been won fairly.
Work that the BBC published last week, on 7 February, highlighted some of the risks in football. Although football is very different from the Olympics, the risks should be flagged up as the report makes stark reading. FIFPro conducted a survey of thousands of players in eastern and southern Europe. Almost one-quarter— 23.3 per cent—said that they were aware of match fixing in their leagues, and 11.9 per cent had been approached to fix a game. What is positive about this is that it recognises that the club licensing system is not working as well as it could. While as many as 100 clubs were denied licences last season, this gives us a very important baseline to work on, and sets a mark of which other sports should be very aware.
For the Games this year, rules have been put in place to tackle the issue. They are published on the London 2012 website. This is the first time that the IOC has done such work in detail for the Games. An e-mail hotline has been set up by the IOC for people to report any suspicious activity. That should be welcomed and far more publicity should be given to it. Any sport disciplinary action at the Games will rightly be led by the IOC, with the support of the international federations for that sport. It will look at wider sanctions beyond the Games. This is exactly the same process that is followed for anti-doping. Like the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, I am a passionate advocate for ethical sport.
In the same way as we have extensive anti-doping education for athletes, we should look at international and ongoing education to discourage other forms of corruption. I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, about the clarification and guidance that will be needed for the athletes. That will be incredibly important. A sports person needlessly risking their career for short-term financial gain is something that we should continually and actively discourage, not just in the period leading up to 2012 but far beyond it. We should learn from the anti-doping experience and the benefits of intelligence data gathering. I understand that the DCMS has been leading the consultation to add the IOC and other international sporting bodies to Schedule 6 to the Gambling Act 2005. If these bodies were on the list, the Gambling Commission would be entitled to share its information with them. I hope that there will be a positive conclusion to this.
Finally, I am aware that much of the research available is around the Olympic Games. What measures will be in place for the Paralympic Games? We know that the risk for the Olympics is relatively low, and I assume that for the Paralympics it will be lower still, but as London 2012 raises the bar at all levels, will this be seen as a future potential risk for our athletes or for other international athletes around the world?
Once again, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for securing this debate. I look forward to a fantastic Games this summer and take the opportunity to wish Team GB and Paralympics GB the best of luck.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moynihan for securing this debate, which has allowed us the opportunity to consider how the Government are addressing the problems of match fixing and suspicious betting, and the threat that these might pose to the integrity of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I pay tribute to his great expertise in Olympic and sporting matters.
It is an honour for the UK to host the 2012 Games, and we want to do all we can to make them a success. We must be prepared to tackle those things that threaten the spirit of the Games and to protect those involved from the corruption in sport that appears to have become a global issue, as a number of noble Lords highlighted in their contributions. It must be stressed that while match fixing is a growing dilemma, for every event tainted by this scourge there are thousands that are contested fairly and honestly at all levels and across all sports and nations. We must believe that those given the opportunity to participate in the Games will feel privileged to be part of such an historic and prestigious event, but we cannot ignore the evidence that there are those who will seek to corrupt the spirit of fair play and damage the integrity and spirit of sport, whatever the event and wherever it is held.
The IOC’s Olympic Charter states that it will,
“dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails”.
We will do all we can to support this during the London Games. I welcome the announcement from the IOC last week that outlined co-operation in the fight against irregular and illegal sports betting. The UK Government agree that the most effective way to tackle this threat is to ensure effective collaboration between all the parties involved: sports governing bodies, betting operators, law enforcement agencies and the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit.
We also welcome the efforts being made within the sporting world, international federations and national Olympic committees to educate those involved about the dangers of corruption. My noble friend Lord Moynihan and the noble Lord, Lord Condon, were among those who emphasised the importance of education. Those education programmes play an ever more important role in demonstrating the importance of integrity. Many use former Olympians and elite athletes to deliver the key message that striving to do your best must always win over bribery and corruption. The risks cannot be underplayed. Not only can corruption have a huge impact on the reputations of individuals and their sport, it can ruin lives and careers. We have seen evidence of this over the past few months with the cases involving the Pakistani cricketers.
I need to stress that currently no specific threat to the 2012 Games has been identified and many of the steps to provide effective protection against potential threats are already in place in Great Britain, as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, made clear. However, the London Games are the first Games where sports-betting integrity has been elevated to the level of focus that doping has warranted, bringing us a new challenge that we must address.
The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, asked what international plans are in place. I will incorporate my answer to that in the remarks I make about the Joint Assessment Unit and the other mechanisms that are going forward. We are working with global representatives to look at how we can collectively tackle match fixing. The Council of Europe is proposing a convention that European states will work to.
The noble Lord, Lord Condon, spoke about the Joint Assessment Unit. We must pay tribute to the major contribution he has made in establishing the unit and drawing on his expertise from his distinguished career in the police force. The Joint Assessment Unit will help us meet the challenge and will provide the mechanism to focus our established, effective protection methods on the 2012 Olympics. Representatives from the IOC, the police and the Gambling Commission are working in partnership to create the unit and to collaborate with sports organisations, betting operators, overseas regulators and the Games organisers, bringing together a wealth of experience and expertise. These initiatives will mean that we are fully prepared to assess and determine the appropriate response to information about potentially corrupt betting activity involving Olympic sports.
The JAU will fully support the key decision-makers in deciding whether further action is justified. If an investigation is deemed to be required, the JAU will decide who should be invited to take the lead. As a general rule, the IOC will deal with sports issues under sport rules and if criminality is suspected the police will deal with it under criminal law. It is possible that a criminal investigation and a sports investigation will run simultaneously depending on the nature of the potential incident. Other relevant organisations will be involved in investigations as and when appropriate or necessary.
The JAU may not stop those determined to engage in corrupt or illegal betting activity, but this collaborative approach will ensure that any incidents of sports-betting integrity can be effectively co-ordinated and managed within existing business-as-usual protocols and processes. My noble friend Lord Addington, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, emphasised the importance of publicising what we are doing. Certainly, by publicising this approach, we hope that those considering engaging in corrupt or illegal betting activity may be deterred from doing so.
The concept of the joint unit is new to the Games and provides a unique opportunity for the UK to demonstrate its capability. We can build on the working practices and protocols already established between organisations, and to a large extent this capability has already proved successful in tackling corruption.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised some key points arising from his valuable 2005 committee report and reminded us of the felicitous anniversary of its publication. His points were echoed in the contributions of my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Addington. The Government accepted the definition of cheating in the Parry report, and I do hear the concerns raised around the Chamber. The review of cheating was not considered a priority at this time, but that is not to say that it has been forgotten. We hope to address that issue. Along with the Gambling Commission, we are looking at the range of offences related to sports-betting integrity to see that we have the suite of powers necessary to combat the threat.
The codes of conduct by sports governing bodies included in the Parry recommendations include provisions that participants shall not use inside information that is not publicly available in relation to betting. My noble friend Lord Moynihan raised concerns about definitions of inside information. It is already within the codes of conduct of the sporting bodies.
The commission has the power to restrict the type of bets offered and to approve sporting bodies' rules before allowing betting on those sports. However, based on available evidence, it does not consider that at the moment intrusive or resource-intensive methods are warranted. It is working with the betting industry—my noble friends Lord Addington and Lord Moynihan mentioned the importance of working with the betting industry. It is in its interest that there is integrity. With the industry, we are looking to see whether the deterrents to cheating or getting others to cheat can be strengthened.
We look forward to the introduction of the recommendations put forward following our recent review of remote gambling. We recognise that one of the benefits that will accrue for tackling sports-betting integrity matters will be the availability of information through licence conditions. The Government are seeking the earliest possible legislative opportunity in a crowded timetable. As far as the Olympics are concerned, we believe that we have satisfactory arrangements in place for the duration of the Games.
The European Sports Security Association is planning a seminar in March and the audience will include betting operators, sports bodies and JAU stakeholders. The Minister for Sport will also attend, diary permitting. The aim of the seminar will be to agree how ESSA members and sports bodies will collaborate to minimise risk and maximise co-operation around Olympic-related incidents.
We are grateful to have the benefit of the advice and guidance of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The noble Baroness raised the issue of the Paralympics. She is right that they are outside the scope and remit of the Joint Assessment Unit, which will close shortly after the Olympic Games closing ceremony, but this is because advice indicated that the market for betting on the Paralympics would be small and has not been offered at previous Games. The risk of sports-betting integrity to the Paralympics is considerably lower than that to the Olympic Games. LOCOG reached agreement with the International Paralympic Committee based on this advice that it is not necessary to have the same structures in place for the Paralympics to deal with sports-betting integrity.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, asked what will happen if there is strong evidence of an incident and what guidance has been given to national Olympic committees. The IOC has asked national Olympic committees to appoint a nominated representative to be responsible for liaison on betting issues that may occur during the Games. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked whether we will be monitoring the betting information. We will be doing so through the ISM and through working with betting operators via the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Integrity Unit. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked whether we will be analysing data on betting markets. We will do a full threat assessment on all Olympic sports before the Games. He asked whether we will scenario-test the JAU and he was given a comprehensive answer by the noble Lord, Lord Condon. We have already done one day of scenario testing and another is planned. There is expertise which will be used to facilitate those tests.
The UK has proven success in tackling corruption and threats to betting integrity. We will build on the recommendations in the Parry report to develop viable and sustainable solutions so that we can have a legacy to be proud of. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this valuable debate on an extremely topical issue of international significance. With so much preparation, we can make a real and positive contribution to ensure an inspirational Games and a memorable year that will show the whole world the UK at its very best.