The temptation of corruption in sport

by James Brown

TINZ Director

Specialising on preventing sports corruption

Corruption in sport can be broken into two areas: namely competition and management corruption. Competition corruption includes doping, performance enhancing drugs and match manipulation. Management corruption involves accepting personal payments and expensive perks in return for awarding venues and preferential sponsorships.

FIFA, football's world governing body, has been engulfed by claims of widespread management corruption that has claimed the careers of two of the most powerful men in football,FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, both of whom have been banned for eight years from all football-related activities.

In May last year, the US indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption following a major inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And in December, 16 more officials were charged following the arrest of two Fifa Vice-Presidents at the same hotel in Zurich. Former Brazil Football Federation Chief Ricardo Teixeira was among those accused of being involved in criminal schemes involving well over $200million in bribes and kickbacks.

Competition corruption is of growing concern as more cases emerge. Athletes facing short competitive lifespans, where the narrowest margin separates average from excellent, are drawn to anything that gives them the slightest competitive advantage. For many, the fear of getting caught is the only deterrent; while some feel that risk is justified.

Match manipulation behind sports gambling is as old as sport itself. It is now a trillion dollar industry. The temptation is strong for athletes and officials to accept compensation for a few missed plays or calls.

Even Rugby – “the gentlemen's sport” - is at risk.

"We don’t suggest rugby is at high risk of match-fixing but there is a risk there nonetheless because the market is growing as is the international interest in gambling and it would be naive to think it would never come knocking on the door,” insists Darren Small. He is Director of Integrity at Sportradar, who works closely with the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Players Association.

While the foundation of sport is fairness, today huge amounts of money are involved which prove enticing to athletes, officials, and leaders of the governing bodies at all levels to ignore fairness in favour of competitive or financial advantage.

We see this regularly in sports news. It seems from the media that the public is more interested to hear about the next scandal rather than looking forward to a closely fought sporting competition.

Having spent 15 years playing professional sports I would be embarrassed if I found out that my fellow competitors were breaking the rules. Many would assume I was doing the same thing!

It is critical that we devote resources to discourage cheating in sport and dole out severe punishments when it is uncovered to eliminate the temptation and ensure fairness.

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