All posts by Nikolaj Juul Sørensen

Nearly Half of the EU Citizens Living Alone Don’t Play Sports

A recent report from the EU shows that there is a strong link between personal finances, education and family situation when it comes to participating in sports.

64 % of people who left the education-system after primary school at the age of 15 say they never play any sports. This is divided between 39 % in the 16-19 age group and 24 % in the +20 age group.

As higher levels of education are linked with better standards of living, the data suggests that more highly educated EU citizens equate physical fitness with quality of life.

Bigger families, more sport 
Another interesting factor is the number of people in households, because it provides greater opportunity for playing sport. 47 % of people who live alone do no participate in sports, whereas the result in a household of four or more is only 32 %.

EU-citizens who struggle to pay the bills lso struggle with sports. 56 % of people who have a hard time paying their bills don’t do sports, whereas the result is 35 % in the groups who are well off financially.

A cost benefit anlalysis is needed

According to researcher Karen Petry from German Sport University Cologne we need to engage the groups who are less well off educationally and financially in sports.

“Sport can help keep people out of crime, and get you into education. We really need a cost benefit analysis of sports programs, to see what the overall benefit to society is really is.”

Read the full report at:
http://ec.europa.eu/sport/library/documents/d/ebs_334_en.pdf

Flipping Match-Fixing Upside Down: Who Protects the Players?

köllerer
Daniel Köllerer was sentenced to lifetime bans and large fines by the Tennis Integrity Unit on the basis of very little evidence. Photo: Robbie Mendelson/Flickr

In the last few days at the Play the Game conference it has been well confirmed, that match-fixing is indeed a problem locally, nationally and internationally.

A lot of solutions to dealing with match-fixing via both disciplinary action and criminal law has been suggested.

But who will protect the interests of the athletes if the hunt for match-fixers turn into a witch hunt, and someone unjustly takes the fall?

Life or six months
Speaker Katarina Pijetlovic presented an interesting case of recent match-fixing cases in tennis, where high profile players, including Daniel Köllerer, was sentenced to lifetime bans and large fines by the Tennis Integrity Unit, on the basis of very little evidence.

It was one man’s word against another – the accused against the accuser.

Players suspected of similar crimes, who confessed, was sentenced much more leniently with bans of only six months and fines of 3000 dollars. Making it the more appealing choice, to actually admit to match-fixing – guilty or not.

Void and null
The agreement the players have to sign is legally void, because none of the terms has been negotiated with the affected players before they sign.

“The wawer the players has to sign to play professionally takes away their right of appeal, and by signing it, they agree that they can be charged with crimes based on a low standard of evidence,” Katarina Pijetlovic explained.

None the less, the players have to sign the agreement and follow its rules, because they have no other choice, if they want to be a part of the pro-leagues.

The Slippery Slope of Betting Fraud and Match-Fixing

Why do professional athletes match-fix?

This is a question often asked when new match-fixing cases surface. Richard Mclaren of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) believes that for some, the answer is found in a slippery slope of betting.

“Betting on your own sport is a gateway to match-fixing. It can start innocent enough with small bets, but before long you might be compelled to drop the match for easy money.”

Athletes should know better
Richard McLaren explains that most players caught match-fixing pleads ignorance, and that years ago that would have been a viable excuse, but today the reality is different.

Case in point being the recent sentences in tennis and cricket were the defendants pleaded ignorance, but still was sentenced to long bans and substantial fines.

The bans range from months to lifetime bans, and the fines reached 100.000 dollars and above.

Part of the solution
According to Harri Syväsalmi from the Ministry of Culture and Education in Finland, the athletes need to take responsibility.

“Athletes need to be a part of the solution from the beginning instead of being a part of the problem.”

But according to Nick Garlick, senior specialist in organized crime networks from Europol, the law might need to be more lenient on the athletes themselves for a solution to be possible.

“Banning people for life for match-fixing may not be productive. It creates fear among the athletes, and makes reporting the crimes much less attractive for players.”

Betting Fraud: A Truly Global Issue

Money
In extreme situations relatively small matches has gained enormous financial interest. Photo: 401(K) 2013/Flickr.com

The globalized world has created its own share of globalized problems. Online gambling has seen an estimated rise of 150 percent over the last ten years, and with it, comes a wave of international organized crime.

According to Europol’s senior specialist Nick Garlick, there’s good reason for the criminals to be interested:

“It’s compelling for serious criminals, because it’s high reward and low risk. There’s a lot of money to be made, and many are willing to get involved.”

The Asian situation
According to Nick Garlick, Asian criminals are heavily involved in betting fraud and matchfixing all over the world. Modern technology makes it possible to gamble internationally, quickly and easy, and then send associates to fix the matches, and ensure the winnings.

The fairly unrestricted and convoluted Asian gambling market makes it much harder to expose the cheaters, and in extreme situations relatively small matches has gained enormous financial interest, and no legal action could be taken.

The end of the crime chain
“Europol is committed to fighting matchfixing,” Nick Garlick explained at the plenary session, and joint Europol investigations have had a lot of recent success. But, it is much harder to catch the criminals responsible, than the athletic perpetrators.

“The athletes are not criminal masterminds, and they usually conceal their crimes poorly. But they’re not interesting for Europol, because they’re the end of the criminal chain, and arresting them doesn’t affect the network,” according to Nick Garlick.

The Perfect Storm: Betting Fraud and Match-Fixing

According to Chris Eaton of the ICSS, the conditions of the modern world constitutes the perfect circumstances for betting fraud and match-fixing and this opens a gateway for organized crime into the sports world.

In the future maybe even terrorism could be funded through illegal gambling.

“The big economies involved in sports betting is locally regulated, where they should be globally regulated. Action is needed, and quickly. Terrorists have adopted a lot of practices from organized crime, who’s to say when they will adopt match fixing and betting fraud. ”

A billion dollar business
The illegal gambling markets shifts somewhere between 365 billion and 1000 billion a year, according to Chris Rasmussen from the World Lottery association.

It is a completely micro-transaction driven economy, both locally and internationally, which makes the need for an international united governing body even more pressing.

The worst threat to sport
Chris Eaton considers match fixing to be the worst threat to sports, because it injects a criminal element into sport.

“Doping is terrible, but it is still cheating to win. Match-fixing is cheating to lose, and it finances organized crime and fuels violence,” he says.

EU and EUROPOL Move Against Match-fixing: Failure is Still an Option

MEPLøkkegaard
Morten Løkkegaard (Group of the alliance of liberals and demarcates in for Europe) member of the European Parliament. Photo: Thomas Søndergaard/PlaytheGame

In the Lisbon Treaty, sports recently got its own article (§165), but according to MEP Morten Løkkegaard the EU countries generally consider match-fixing a national matter.

Therefore, it is difficult for the countries to reach an agreement on how to fight it, especially since some states rely heavily on online sports-gambling, eg Malta.

In recent years, Europol has had success in uncovering match-fixing scandals, and has gained support in the EU for its endeavours. But, a steady stream of success is important to keep up the political momentum, as Morten Løkkegaard explains.

Failure is still an option

“The fight against match-fixing is on the right track politically, but failure is still an option”.

According to Chris Rasmussen of the World Lottery Association approximately 10-15 % of match-fixing is actually discovered and rapported, but the remainder still fly under the radar.

The need to fight match-fixing stems from the sobering realization that it is a billion dollar business, and the gains wind up in the pockets of organized crime.

Law is the weapon of choice
Common EU-legislature would go a long way in the prevention of match-fixing internationally.

But when the European Commission suggested a collaborative effort to create a European center against match-fixing, it fell trough because 1 of 27 states did not agree.

And as Morten Løkkegaard explains: “There can be no legislation without agreement”.