Match-fixing: the Australian legislative response

The Australian Crime Commission Report into Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport raised the issue of the increasing level of association between professional athletes and organised criminal identities in Australia, leaving individual athletes vulnerable to corrupt practices such as match-fixing. One of the key findings is that the threat to the integrity of Australian sport is an emerging and critical issue which must be addressed now.

In the wake of the South Australian and now Victorian Governments introducing bills to directly criminalise match-fixing, what is the rest of the country doing?
‘On 10 June 2011, all Australian sports ministers endorsed on behalf of their governments, a National Policy on Match-Fixing in Sport with the aim of protecting the integrity of sport.'

An important component of the policy is for states and territories to introduce legislation, and in particular criminal sanctions, as part of a nationally consistent approach to combat match-fixing in Australian sports.

‘On 18 November 2011, Australian Attorneys-General supported the development of consistent national match-fixing offences with the maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for some offences.’

New South Wales was the first state to pass legislation specifically against corrupt betting in sports from which the Victorian and South Australian governments have based their bills.

Part 4ACA of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) criminalises the corrupting of a betting outcome of an event. ‘Corrupt conduct’ is when:
  1. Firstly, the conduct is likely to affect the outcome of any type of betting on any event (that is lawful to bet on in any State, Territory or the Commonwealth), and 
  2. Secondly, the conduct does not meet the standard of integrity that a reasonable person would expect of those in the position that affect this outcome.
The NSW Law Reform Commission in its Cheating at Gambling report concerning these laws found that the second part of the test is to prevent ‘overcriminalisation’. Therefore it does not include:
…legal play and genuine attempts to achieve a win, tactical decisions, honest errors by players or officials, and even the kinds of rule breaches or foul play that give rise to penalties, all of which are part and parcel of a regularly conducted sporting contest.
The ‘corrupt conduct’ is criminal when the person intends to obtain a financial advantage for themselves or another person, or cause financial disadvantage to another person in relation to this conduct—the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. The financial advantage or disadvantage may be permanent or temporary, and there is no requirement to prove that any financial advantage was actually obtained or that any financial disadvantage was actually caused.

The same punishment applies if a person:
    Also as envisaged under the National Policy, the Commonwealth has set up a National Integrity of Sport Unit ‘in recognition of the need for national coordination, monitoring and reporting’ of initiatives and roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders under this National Policy. The Unit is primarily responsible for assisting sports to adopt and apply a National Code of Conduct and help create protocols for sporting bodies to report, investigate and sanction corrupt betting behaviour, and educate players about match-fixing. These functions are set out in the anti-match-fixing policy template prepared for sporting bodies. It applies to all persons accredited with the sport as well as its associated members.

    The National Integrity Unit is a domestic response to a much larger global problem. In 2011, David Howman, Director-General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), claimed that organised crime groups that traffic in substances or methods included on the WADA Prohibited List also are involved in other corrupt activities including match-fixing. At this time, Howman called for the establishment of a World Sports Integrity Agency to deal with, amongst other things, the investigation of illegal betting. This proposal has not yet been implemented.


    Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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