Editorial: Betting rules all show

Phew, South Canterbury rugby is saved. Well, its financial security at least.

All the local union has to do is jack up the result of a match against Mid Canterbury or North Otago, invest heavily on the TAB, and share in the cash.

Which of course it wouldn't. But it could.

At least, it could under the New Zealand Rugby Union's interpretation of the International Rugby Board's latest anti-corruption regulations.

These state that professional and semi-professional players, administrators, family and friends are not allowed to bet on rugby matches anywhere in the world.

The NZRU reckons about 2000 people in New Zealand will need to sign "connected persons" agreements, and will be visiting the five Super Rugby franchises and the 14 top-tier provincial unions to tell them about it.

That seems to let the 12 smaller unions off the hook, including South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and North Otago.

I write all of this, of course, tongue in cheek.

A mass jack-up of a game and resulting windfall would be exposed, and dealt with, under other rules.

What the NZRU is doing is playing the IRB game, and the IRB has to be seen to be serious about warding off corruption. Enough other sports have been tarred by that brush. Cricket, cycling and boxing for starters.

And it makes sense that players should not be betting on games. It's akin to insider trading. It gets tricky though to know how far such a ban extends. Yes to coaches and medical staff, but family and friends?

It's unfair surely that just because your best mate is in a provincial rugby team you can't invest on any games worldwide. Heavens, no one on the West Coast would be allowed to bet at all.

The NZRU is taking a sensible approach though. Says general manager of professional rugby Neil Sorenson: "To be perfectly honest the IRB and New Zealand rugby aren't really going to go after a grandmother putting $5 on her grandson to score a try."

Which raises the other obvious point - how is anyone going to know anyway? Unless there is an exceptional investment no one is going to notice, or be able to track links back to players. If a player was determined to have a flutter on a game in which they were playing, the chances of being caught are minuscule.

So the rules are in place largely for the sake of appearance, and not to have them would send the message: "What are you trying to hide?"

Fair enough then to put some rules in writing. In reality, little will change.

The Timaru Herald