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Sport: Corruption

Volume 777: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2016

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of this year’s Global Corruption Report by Transparency International, what action they are taking to tackle corruption in sport.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so I declare an interest as president of Northamptonshire County Cricket Club and the MCC, and as a member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

My Lords, the Government are fully committed to tackling corruption in sport at all levels. This is reflected in Sporting Future, the Government’s sport strategy. Working closely with bodies such as UK Anti-Doping and the Gambling Commission, we are not only taking steps to protect integrity in the United Kingdom, but playing our part in tackling these threats through co-ordinated international efforts with partners such as the World Anti-Doping Agency.

I am extremely grateful for that reassuring Answer. Nevertheless, I wonder how many of your Lordships understand the extent of the illegal betting and fixing of matches going on across so many sports. While the ECB for cricket and the All England Club and others in the tennis world are taking action, in my judgment far too many sporting bodies have only just started to realise the challenge before them. Against that background, will my noble friend, through the Government, put pressure on these governing bodies, in particular to monitor that they have governance in place, that there is transparency in what they are doing, and, above all, that there is an independent assessment of whatever procedures they may have?

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his Question, and in particular on his contacts with so many famous sporting groups. At the domestic level, a new United Kingdom code of sports governance was published only last month, as my noble friend is aware. It sets out a commitment in the Sporting Future strategy and makes it clear that we expect the highest standards of governance and transparency from all sports governing bodies that wish to receive public funding from 2017. If these are not adhered to, their funding will be under question.

My noble friend also talked about independence of examination, but one must remember that government funding is only part of such organisations’ funding. They are independent bodies but they must adhere to the governance code. Part of the checks and balances must minimise the likelihood of integrity issues arising.

My Lords, will the Minister assure us that we will not only put pressure on our own governing bodies, but encourage those of other nations, particularly of our allies and friends, also to have a coherent approach? Unless we are international on this, we will do nothing.

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point about putting pressure on international bodies, and this is being carried out through the sport integrity partnership. We welcome the intention to launch the international sport integrity partnership in the margins of a meeting of the International Forum for Sport Integrity in Lausanne in early 2017. I also draw the House’s attention to the anti-corruption summit that happened in the early part of this year. The Prime Minister reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment at the G20 summit earlier this year.

My Lords, sadly I have no clubs to declare an interest in—I am still an active sports player. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is conducting a cross-government review of the existing anti-doping legislative framework and assessing whether stronger criminal sanctions are required. Can the Minister confirm that if the review should make it clear that stronger criminal sanctions are needed, the Government will not hesitate to act?

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows very well, this point was debated in Committee on a Bill before your Lordships’ House earlier this month, and I suspect there will be later opportunities on the same Bill to discuss it again. I cannot pre-empt what will be decided from the review. The Government are in the final process of the review but we must realise that criminalisation is not always a panacea for doping and that not all countries have legislation in place.

My Lords, too many sporting bodies are run by the old boys’ brigade. Do we not need to have far more professional sport in the UK and around the world?

My Lords, transparency and openness in all these sporting bodies is of paramount importance. This is why, at the G20 summit, we looked at setting up the Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, and why we are looking at the Criminal Finances Bill and establishing a joint financial analysis centre. The Government are investing in expertise in data and intelligence. The point is that these sporting bodies, many funded in part by public money, have to show their transparency, openness and correct behaviour.

My Lords, this is a googly: is the Minister prepared to have a look at the full report by Transparency International, which he will find supports the Private Member’s Bill that I put before the House on lobbying transparency to avoid corruption within lobbying of government? Is he prepared to try to persuade the Minister in question to take a similarly positive approach to clearing up the mess there as he is doing on this subject?

My Lords, I have been in the Chamber part of the time as the noble Lord’s Bill passes through your Lordships’ House. I will of course pass on his concerns to the Minister.