Organised crime threatens all international sports

Al Jazeera investigation revealing cricket match-fixing is another sign sport's traditional values are being eroded.

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    Al Jazeera's investigation, Cricket’s Match-Fixers, revealed how criminals doctored a pitch in Sri Lanka during Test matches to ensure certain outcomes [Al Jazeera]
    Al Jazeera's investigation, Cricket’s Match-Fixers, revealed how criminals doctored a pitch in Sri Lanka during Test matches to ensure certain outcomes [Al Jazeera]

    All global sport, including cricket, are under attack from organised crime.

    These criminal syndicates swallowed the previously freelance corrupters of sports competitions and coordinate massive global fraud on sport betting.

    My 30-plus years of experience has forced me to conclude that all international sports are now under serious threat from organised crime, which makes millions from bribing players to fixing matches, or parts of, and even whole tournaments.

    By 2017, the exposure of scandal in sport, on and off the field, was becoming almost a daily occurrence.

    I was given the opportunity to watch and comment on the evidence obtained by the Al Jazeera team that investigated fixing in cricket. This investigation will shock many and shame some.

    (Al Jazeera Investigations' documentary, Cricket's Match-Fixers, will be available to watch online on Sunday at 10:00 GMT.)

    In an era where the media is under ill-motivated attack for its credibility, it is investigative reporting work like this that proves yet again how vital the fourth estate is in forcing transparency and accountability into dark, arrogant or witless spaces.

    Cricket is one of the first sports to embrace a serious anti-corruption formula. The sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), set up its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit in 2000 following a series of corruption scandals involving cricketers and bookmakers.

    In reality, the ICC's relatively small team of mostly former police officers is a well-intentioned integrity fig leaf. But the ICC, like FIFA, is caught between a cultural rock and a business hard place. 

    The traditional values of sport are in danger of being swept away by a relentless tide of money, greed and corruption.

     

    The old voluntary culture of values, including fair play and honest competition, is now seen by many involved in sport as quaint and ineffective. 

    The new business of competition churn, chock-full of external agents, private promoters and often mystery owners, doesn't give a hoot for yesterday, no matter how filthy, unless it affects business tomorrow.

    The traditional values of sport are in danger of being swept away by a relentless tide of money, greed and corruption.

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    During my time at FIFA, I was at first surprised then dismayed at the cavalier approach the organisation had to the crimes of match-fixing then - and still - permeating world football.

    My assessment was that match-fixing is not only eminently preventable, but quite simple to investigate and punish, given the right tools and the commitment of its leaders.

    But with internal scandals publicly wreaking havoc in 2011 and beyond, there was simply no will at FIFA to focus on the external criminals attacking football's core values.

    Our great sports are at risk and we need to take urgent action to save them for future generations. Without a serious commitment from administrators and law enforcement agencies, the criminals - and the players - who corrupt our global sports, will continue to thrive.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.


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