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Sport: Doping and Illegal Gambling

Volume 769: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to protect the integrity of sporting events from both doping and illegal gambling domestically and internationally.

My Lords, the Government are fully committed to protecting the integrity of sporting events at all levels. This was reflected in the Government’s recently published sport strategy. By working closely with bodies such as UK Anti-Doping and the Gambling Commission, not only are we taking steps to protect integrity within the United Kingdom, we are playing our part in tackling these threats through co-ordinated international efforts.

I thank the noble Earl for that Answer. Will he give me a commitment that, in the light of the recent sports policy, which suggests that the whole of government should come behind sport, all the British sporting bodies, particularly those that receive government funds, will make sure that they internally have the highest levels of integrity possible? Without a good example, our hand to correct these problems in the wider world will be greatly weakened.

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point, but, through the different sport groups’ respective international federations, our national governing bodies of sport are required to be compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. In addition, UK Anti-Doping is responsible for ensuring that all the UK governing bodies are compliant with the code and Her Majesty’s Government’s national anti-doping policy.

My Lords, cheating, by whatever means, has no place in sport, partly because the casualties are mainly the clean sportsmen and sportswomen. Cheating is inimical to the very essence of sport and its philosophy of team spirit, honesty and loyalty. However, cheating is not illegal in the UK. Why is this the case? Last year the Government said that they would consider and review the situation. What is the current position?

My Lords, the noble Lord refers to criminalisation of doping in sport. As he mentioned, a review has been in progress and it has just been finally put together. One must also remember, however, that criminalisation of doping is not a panacea that will suddenly make all doping disappear. The noble Lord will no doubt be aware that France, for example, where criminalisation does take place, is on the watch list of countries that have had problems in the past.

Does my noble friend agree that UK Anti-Doping is doing excellent work to ensure that the Great British teams that compete in this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio will be not just successful teams but clean teams?

My Lords, I could not agree more. My noble friend makes a very good point. UK Anti-Doping’s “100% me” education programme has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. This has had workshops tailored to each stage of an athlete’s pathway, right from grass roots up to the top professional level.

My Lords, our country’s Sport and Sports Betting Integrity Action Plan calls for international co-operation. Only last night, Transparency International published its excellent report, Global Corruption Report: Sport. Among its many recommendations, it says that one way forward would be for countries to sign up to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions. Many other European countries have already signed. Will the Minister explain why this country has not and when it is likely to do so?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this point. Her Majesty’s Government are committed to combating match fixing. The recently published sports strategy set this out. We will sign and ratify the Council of Europe’s match-fixing convention and, in so doing, will review the existing legislation framework. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is hosting an international anti-corruption summit later this year, at which sport will play a key part.

Is my noble friend aware that many of the leading clubs in the United Kingdom, such as the All England club for tennis and the MCC for cricket—I declare a hurried interest in both—have worked on this for years and continue to do so, but the change in the market is the increase in betting on specific, very short-term instances? Has the time not come for Her Majesty’s Government to call in the betting industry to make sure that these are absolutely genuine bets and not, frankly, fixed bets?

My Lords, my noble friend makes a good point, especially relating to gambling. We keep this situation under continual review. There have been questions over whether Section 42 of the Gambling Act is sufficient for our needs. A review by the last Government found it to be effective. Only two months ago, somebody was prosecuted under Section 42.

My Lords, is it not obvious that this is a global question that needs a solution on a global basis by some sort of global regulatory body?

My Lords, there is a global body: WADA. The noble Lord will be very glad to hear that it pays a lot of attention to what we do over here.

My Lords, the illegal gambling industry was estimated in 2013 to be worth upwards of £320 billion worldwide. Last year, receipts to Her Majesty’s Treasury from betting and gaming in the UK just exceeded £2 billion. Has an estimate ever been made of how much revenue is lost to the Treasury each year from illegal gambling in the UK?

My noble friend makes a very good point relating to illegal gambling. I missed the first part of his question, but I will write to him about the second part, in particular, because I do not have that information to hand.