Photo courtesy allblacks.com

Rugby's clean reputation strengthens New Zealand's brand

There is no doubt that being number ONE in the world produces economic and social benefits. Economic ripples of the All Blacks’ victory are already adding value to the country’s brand. The All Blacks’ success appears to involve everyone in New Zealand regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or social strata. It has been said that rugby here is more than a game, it is part of New Zealand culture.

While the All Blacks players and coaches deserve all our praise for their efforts that led the team to victory, the behind-the-scenes people also deserve recognition, including the people who work hard towards maintaining the integrity of the sport.

As recent corruption scandals in sport have highlighted, from bribery to match fixing and doping, it is apparent that international sport organisations are not always well-equipped to prevent corruption, as they often have less-developed mechanisms of governance than governments, businesses, and civil society organisations.

TINZ and our umbrella organisation, TI, are committed to fighting corruption in sport by connecting the sports community to the wider movement against corruption. This led us to ask what is so different about rugby, since it does not appear to be tainted by corruption.

The organisation that runs the game in this country, New Zealand Rugby (NZR), is very focused on ensuring the game remains an honest test of skill and ability. It is well aware that that New Zealand is not immune from corruption, and so for some time has had a focus on ensuring the game remains clean.

NZR has employed a full-time integrity manager and introduced a number of measures, systems and regulations to prevent doping and match fixing, and to ensure that all registered rugby players, at all levels, are bound by these regulations. Education and training are provided to contracted players and administration staff about the rules that apply to doping, match fixing and prohibition of betting, and they are all required to sign an anti-corruption and betting acknowledgement.

Match fixing and betting measures

NZR’s Anti-corruption and Betting Regulations are aligned with World Rugby regulations, which apply internationally, to all people involved in the sport at all levels—international, professional and semi-professional. The simple message is that everyone involved in professional rugby (players, management, and administration) is prohibited from betting on all forms of rugby anywhere in the world.

We were keen to learn how these regulations are being applied, and whether their Fraud Detection System (FDS—a system provided by international company Sportradar to monitor irregular betting patterns and movements) is a successful detection tool.

By tracking trends and movement of money across a wide range of markets, FDS can detect irregular betting patterns in real time, both pre-match and live. FDS provides reports to NZR on any material movement in odds, and assesses the integrity of any game. If fraudulent activity is suspected, it compiles a more detailed report that can be the basis of criminal investigation into match fixing, and can enable disciplinary action.

NZR closely monitors these FDS reports and TAB accounts, and although the system is not fool-proof, it can identify those breaching the regulations and the irregular patterns that point to possible ‘corrupt underperformance’.

Doping, bullying and harassment

Rugby’s anti-doping rules incorporate the New Zealand Sports Anti-doping Rules and the WADA code, and NZR also has guidelines in place regarding supplements and medications, with regulations regarding illegal recreational drugs currently being drafted. It has also provided guidelines to Super Rugby teams and Provincial Unions covering bullying and harassment.

Financial accountability

TINZ was interested to know how New Zealand’s Provincial Unions and Super Rugby clubs  measure up under the categories of financial accounts, organisational statutes or charters, annual activity reports and codes of conduct or ethics. We were assured that the financial accounts of the Provincial Unions and Super Rugby clubs are for the most part in good order and they are monitored by NZR as appropriate. Where they do face financial challenges, NZR provide support and advice in an effort to be proactive rather than reactive in order to avoid any substantive issues.

TINZ has not done a full assessment of rugby’s transparency, but we can reassure the New Zealand public that NZR has integrity systems in place that aim to keep the sport of rugby in New Zealand free from all forms of corruption. NZR, however, recognises there is no room for complacency and is committed to evolving its policies and education so rugby’s good record remains intact.

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