Editorial: Fixing up the fixing

17:00, Jun 01 2014

The Government is right to be making match-fixing an explicit criminal offence.

It doesn't suffice that the dirty deals might already be covered by existing legislation because that's never been tested. You don't want to find out it's inadequate by having a righteous prosecution fail.

The intent is to set up not only a good clear law, but also have a fully operational, strongly collaborative network to uphold it, And to do so before match-fixing becomes established in New Zealand.

You might want to discuss among yourselves whether such measures are truly pre-emptive, or merely on time given the extent to which the Lou Vincent/Chris Cairns accusations are towering in the public consciousness, or even a tad late.

New Zealand sports betting has more than doubled over the past decade to about $250 million in 2012/13 but in the overall scheme of things that's parochial stuff, really. When competition gets international the stakes, in several codes, are huge. Interpol warns that illegal sports betting generated $US140 billion in 2010. As Sport and Recreation Minister Murray McCully says, in recent years some sporting codes have become increasingly targeted by international criminal elements.

You can't bet on a New Zealand sport without the consent of that sports' organisation and the Racing Board, with its TAB expertise. The blueprint the Government has laid out so far is likely to be a test of the co-operative mettle not only of codes, but of the individuals in them.

The syncing up of a nationwide protective system has to go beyond penalties, requirements for affected or approached sports figures to come forward with information, and provision for more widely publicised confidential whistleblower reporting processes.

Professional players are going to have to accept closer scrutiny of their finances; a potentially sticky degree of intrusion. Also necessary - and this is sinister territory indeed - is a procedure to keep people who have been approached by a match-fixer safe once they have done the right thing.

The controls will also include restrictions to "spot bets"' on particular actions within matches, which are more easily manipulated than final results. If they're not banned outright then at very least this sort of betting must be capped at modest maximums.


The Southland Times