TAB stops offering odds on regional leagues at New Zealand Football's request
New Zealand Football has moved to stop the TAB from taking bets on regional premier league matches.
This winter, the TAB began offering head-to-head odds for matches in the Northern Premier League, the Central Premier League, and the Mainland Premier League.
They are amateur men's competitions contested by clubs that are a step below the national league that is contested by a mix of clubs and franchises during the summer, and which the TAB has offered odds on for years.
But as of last week, the TAB is no longer offering odds on regional leagues, after complying with a request from the sport's governing body.
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In a statement, NZ Football said that "while there has been nothing to suggest there are any integrity issues at play, [they were] not comfortable for there to be betting on a club-level competition".
NZ Football has given players and staff at national league level training around what they can and can't do when it comes to betting and related integrity issues, but is yet to roll out the programme in full at federation and club level.
"There's four parts to it - awareness, education, fraud detection, and co-operation with betting agencies - so we go through those four steps with the players," said NZ Football chief Andy Martin.
"We've done it in the national league already, we've gone through face-to-face training with those teams and our office staff, but that hasn't been completed with the federations and the clubs, so it's wrong for us to put our players in a position where they have an opportunity to bet, but they don't realise what they can and can't do."
Under NZ Football's anti-match fixing and sports betting regulations, certain people involved with football teams and clubs are defined as "relevant persons," who are then prohibited from a range of actions, including bribing or being bribed; betting on matches, including those they aren't playing in; and misusing inside information. There are exceptions for obvious areas such as conducting media interviews.
If betting options on regional leagues were easily available in New Zealand, as they were until this week, the number of people who would be at risk of committing an offence, perhaps unknowingly, would expand greatly.
The TAB started offering betting options on the regional leagues after seeing that a number of offshore bookmakers were doing so.
Martin said that while there was no fundamental issue with them doing so, his organisation felt it was best to take a cautious, prudent approach.
"We became aware of it from a couple of our clubs asking questions, and with the anti-match fixing training we've been doing over the last two years at the forefront of our minds, we just want to make sure at all times that we're protecting our players.
"Once we learnt of this, we talked to the TAB - we have a very strong relationship with them - and made the right decision to pull this back, because we're not ready right now, we've got to conclude this very important work around the integrity programme to make sure every player around the country knows what they can and can't do."
Last year, it was revealed that $50 million had been wagered on the 2014-15 national league at offshore bookmakers, which had prompted NZ Football to take proactive steps to ward off any integrity issues, including adopting its new anti-match fixing and sports betting regulations.
Martin said the volume of betting on the regional leagues was understood to be nowhere near that size.
"I get the sense it's small. Certainly the volume of bets in the short space of time that it's been on offer at the TAB was small."
Martin said the regional league betting options could return to the TAB in the future, though it was not high on his to-do list.
"That would be a conversation once the regions and ourselves are comfortable that the training has taken place, but it's not a priority. The key thing with our partnership with the TAB is making sure that the profile of the EPL [English Premier League] is high, because that's where we want the attention, that's where people make money, that's where the TAB makes money, and that's ultimately where money comes back into the sport from."