UK sports minister appoints advisory panel

The British government's Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, has reacted to fears regarding the danger of gambling corruption in sport by setting up an advisory panel headed by former Liverpool football chief executive Rick Parry, reports the Daily Telegraph.

"I am delighted that Rick Parry has agreed to lead this vitally important work," said Sutcliffe. "His expertise in the nation's most high profile sport, along with that of the other panel members, will give this project the impetus it needs to tackle sports betting corruption head-on.

"We cannot be complacent and need to act now to prevent this becoming a real threat to the integrity of sport.

"There are some complex issues involved and this is by no means an easy task, but I have great confidence in the panel and I look forward to hearing the recommendations."

Traditional bookmakers, betting exchanges, the police, supporters groups as well as officials from racing and football are represented on the panel, which will make recommendations to the minister within the next six months.

"I am confident that we can build on the work already done to ensure we have the toughest possible approach to corruption - protecting and preserving the reputation of sport," said Parry.

Previous football betting scares have recently been topped by a possible gambling irregularity on the first round of Wimbledon tennis games (see previous InfoPowa reports), raising fresh fears about the probity of top-flight tennis, and the need to stamp out any corruption in sport.

The government’s panel will address issues concerning the integrity of sport, with particular reference to the rise in new formats of sports betting.

Telegraph Sport reports that the government has concerns about the ability of the Gambling Commission to investigate allegations of match-fixing, and the new panel is intended to bolster the official response to the issue.

The ability of online betting firms, equipped with sophisticated software capable of flagging suspicious betting patterns, to help in the fight against corruption is now widely respected, with several incidents across a range of sports being initially identified and passed on to sport integrity units. This capability constitutes a useful weapon in the fight against corruption and will no doubt feature in the panel's deliberations.

Mark Davies, managing director of Betfair, said: “We have a memorandum of understanding with the Tennis Integrity Unit which allows them to see patterns of all the betting which takes place on our site and we alerted them to this [the recent Wimbledon incident]. They can make a judgment whether there is something more sinister in this or whether it is just a question of people being aware of a player who was already significantly underrated carrying an injury that meant that he was likely to lose.”

The panel will assess rules relating to sports betting, examine ways of improving communication of suspicious betting patterns between bookmakers and governing bodies, and delivering better education of athletes. They will also consider whether some bets should be forbidden.

The Telegraph opines that the panel is certain to see some friction, with racing and football both pressing for bookmakers to make a financial contribution towards integrity issues in exchange for running markets on their sports. There is also tension between the traditional bookmaking industry and online betting exchanges such as Betfair.

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