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Europol Calls For Action Against Match-Fixing

August 11, 2020

- Grant Whittington

European Union law enforcement agency Europol (formerly named the European Police Office and Europol Drugs Unit), on August 5 published a damning report regarding the state of current affairs in as far as organised crime is concerned in the world of betting on professional and amateur sports.

Europol in its “The Involvement of Organised Crime Groups in Sports Corporation” report addresses several challenges currently facing the global sports betting industry and calls on improved cooperation between the private and the public sector – cooperation the agency says it hopes will effectively crack down on match-fixing and other sports betting industry ills.

Worrying State Of Affairs

The law enforcement agency in its report cites data compiled by global sports data specialist Sportradar, which data places an emphasis on the enormous amounts of money illegally generated by those involved in match-fixing every year. According to the cited Sportradar research data, organised crime groups each year generate combined match-fixing proceeds to the tune of roughly $141 million (roughly £1,08 million).

The report furthermore shines some light on the main problem-areas, namely lower-levelled competitions and tournaments, and most notably, in the world of soccer. Low salaries, says Europol, is the most likely culprit behind lower-levelled athletes’ involvement in corrupt dealings related to sports and match-fixing. This, coupled with the lesser amounts of attention typically directed at lower-level competitions and games, make of low-profile competition events perfect targets for organised criminals looking to undermine the law.

Soccer Not The Only Culprit

But soccer is far from the only sport targeted by organised criminals. Tennis too, has in recent years witnessed a spike in match-fixing incidents. For example, tennis in 2016 reported only about 11 incidents of matches suspected of having been tampered with, whereas in 2017, that number was reported to have skyrocketed all the way up to an incredible 236.

Payment platforms and systems typically used in online gambling also came under the loop, with organised criminals by now notorious for abusing e-wallet accounts and online payment systems for their criminal misgivings and ends.

Interesting to note about Europol’s report, is the organisation’s statement regarding match-fixing being a serious criminal offense instead of merely an issue related to integrity in the world of sports. Serious criminal offenses are carried out by serious criminals, stresses Europol in its report.

Combined Effort Necessary

The only way in which to truly combat match-fixing and related crimes in sports, according to Europol, is for all the relevant stakeholders with a vested interest in the world of professional and amateur sports to work together as one. A “multi-stakeholder” and “multi-disciplinary” approach are what is now critically necessary, says the organisation.

It then goes on to name the relevant stakeholders as being law enforcement offices and officials, sports leagues, betting operators (bookmakers), regulatory sports bodies, judicial authorities overseeing sports events on all levels, the general public, and private institutions supplying services related to sports integrity and the monitoring of bets.

Urgent Action Is Needed

Europol in its report furthermore calls on an increase in the development of sports and betting monitoring services and systems. Also, stresses the organisation, there continues to prevail a massive gap in the area of protective systems and mechanisms being in place for the purpose of protecting the anonymity and safety of whistle-blowers.

Combatting criminal activities in sports must be urgently prioritised, concludes Europol in its latest report, and in such way that organised criminal groups operating in the EU as well as beyond, are effectively brought to task.

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