Mohammad Amir is one of three Pakistani cricketers accused of match-fixing in a recent betting scandal [Reuters]

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacque Rogge, has warned that sport is “in danger” from illegal betting and match-fixing, saying action had to be taken to counter the threat.

Speaking after a meeting with government ministers, Interpol and European bodies on illegal and irregular betting practices on Tuesday, Rogge said action had to be taken to beat an industry estimated to be worth $140 billion a year worldwide.

"(What) we heard from Interpol is that illegal betting is on the rise, we absolutely have to fight that, there is a sense of urgency and it's going to be an ongoing process," he said.

"Sport is in danger. It is not about the Olympics, it's not about the Games, it's about sport in general."

Task force

Stressing the need to act immediately, Rogge announced the IOC was creating a task force to coordinate the fight against the multibillion-dollar underground industry.

The task force would include members of sports federations, governments, international organisations such as Interpol and betting operators, he said.

Delegates were told that world sport would "take years to recover'' in the event of a betting corruption scandal on a global scale.

British Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson said corruption linked to online betting was a "moving target,'' and it was impossible to rule out the possibility of attempted fixing at the 2012 London Games.

"We are as confident as we possibly can be that we have the systems in place for London,'' Robertson said.

The conference heard details of fixing and betting scandals in the past six months alone involving football, cricket and sumo wrestling.

Rogge said the next step is a meeting within two weeks to choose task force members and set their agenda. A report is scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.

Potential methods

However, there are no immediate plans to create a global anti-corruption body similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency, as called for last week by the doping body's director general David Howman.

Rogge said creation of a Wada-type body is one of three potential ways forward.

The second is using international conventions on cross-border organised crime and corruption drafted by the United Nations and European Union.

A third way, preferred by government officials attending the summit from Australia, Britain and France, is the "pragmatic'' approach.

Rogge said the IOC, representing global sports, had an open mind on which route to take, but emphasised the role of athletes to look for suspicious behaviour.

"There is a need for education among athletes, for the sports movement to monitor the competitions and to report anything suspicious," he said.

"There is a need to rely on governments for judicial support, for telephone tapping, for search warrants and other things we cannot conduct."

Regulated sports betting was estimated to be a $53 billion industry in 2010. Delegates were told the European market has grown six-fold in eight years as the internet revolutionised the availability, speed and complexity of gambling. 

Source: Agencies