“There is an awful lot of money sloshing around football, and where you have a lot of money you can have a lot of crime,” Matthew Johnson, head of legal regulation at the UK Football Association told told the C5 conference on Sports Law and Business last week.
Reporting on the conference, the BBC said Johnson’s job involves upholding the integrity of football at all levels in England, as well as educating players about issues such as gambling.
Johnson illustrated the magnitude of the task by revealing that in football alone, during season 2009/2010, there was betting in Asia on 250 Blue Square Conference matches – the fifth tier of English football – and on 190 English youth and academy games.
Providing a practical and positive approach to the problem of corruption in sport, David O’Reilly, legal counsel with online gambling firm Betfair, said that his company regularly shares information with sports bodies and the UK Gambling Commission.
O’Reilly revealed that his company employs a permanent 8-man integrity team as a component in the firm’s larger anti-money laundering department.
“There is common ground between sport and gambling, in that it is in everyone’s interest for sport to be clean,” O’Reilly said. “I don’t think it is up to us to say how sports should regulate their players, but education about gambling is a good starting-point.”
The lawyer explained that Betfair as an online gambling group has extensive client and betting data on trackable record. The system is sufficiently sophisticated to track each bet made and the event, selection, stake, odds and winnings, enabling the company to identify and flag suspicious transactions for international sporting bodies.
This online “audit trail” can be enhanced by phone records that the firm keeps, as well as the use of analytical software that can show unusual betting patterns.
“I believe that fixing in relation to sport is low-level, but we will all suffer if people don’t believe sport is clean, because they will not bet on it,” said O’Reilly.