Match-fixing: Former Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe calls for bookmakers to limit their market's to 'appropriate betting'

Sutcliffe raised the concern to current Sports Minister Helen Grant following the recent allegations of match-fixing

Football punters should be limited on what they can bet on to clamp down on cheating and fixing, a former sports minister has said.

Gerry Sutcliffe said the football authorities and the betting industry need to discuss what is an "appropriate bet", adding that he believes gambling on the number of yellow cards, red cards or corners in a game does not fall into that category.

The Labour MP made the call in the Commons after six people were arrested and bailed as part of an investigation into spot-fixing in football, including Blackburn striker DJ Campbell.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) started an investigation after information was passed to it by the Sun on Sunday newspaper.

Mr Sutcliffe told Sports Minister Helen Grant: "Will you convene a meeting between the football authorities and the betting industry because we've seen an increasing (amount) of cheating, match-fixing, spot-betting?

"I think there needs to be a discussion around what's an appropriate bet. Betting on the number of corners or number of yellow cards or the number of red cards I don't think is appropriate and perhaps there needs to be a discussion about that."

Ms Grant replied: "You make an important point and I know you have considerable knowledge about these issues.

"There was actually a meeting that was highlighted all over the papers just a couple of days ago whereby we did meet the main governing bodies and the Gambling Commission to discuss the very issue you talk about - match-fixing, spot-fixing.

"The integrity of sport, of course, is absolutely paramount and we have got to keep sport clean.

"It is very obvious a multi-agency approach is needed to deal with these issues and we need to continue to make sure that player education is developed, information-sharing happens and that we also share best practice."

Last month Ms Grant told MPs the Government has no plans to bring in new match-fixing laws despite growing European pressure for tougher measures.

Labour amendments to the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, including creating a separate offence for match-fixing, were defeated, with Ms Grant insisting that existing laws and sports rules were sufficient.

Shadow culture minister Clive Efford asked Ms Grant to reconsider her position following the latest allegations, telling her during culture questions: "The 2009 Parry report on sport betting recommended strengthening the law on cheating as defined in the 2005 Act.

"Jacques Rogge (former International Olympic Committee president) described cheating and gambling as being as dangerous to sport's credibility as doping.

"(Culture Secretary Maria Miller) called a summit this week presumably to explain to sport governing bodies why the Government alone has failed to meet the recommendations of the Parry report."

Addressing Ms Grant, he continued: "You rejected all of our amendments to the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill on match-fixing.

"Following the recent allegations in football, will you now reconsider your position?"

A Liberal Democrat MP described English professional football as "rotten to the core" and in need of a Royal Commission to clean it up.

Sir Bob Russell said "parasitic agents" who take millions of pounds out of the game are part of the problem, adding football wasted its riches in a similar style to governments.

The Colchester MP's Royal Commission request would involve the Government appointing a group of people to investigate the issue and to make recommendations on any action that needs to be taken.

Ms Grant said she did not agree with Sir Bob and explained the football authorities did bring in some reforms during the summer, although said more "definitely needs to be done", with legislation an option.

Sir Bob told Ms Grant: "I think there's general agreement that professional football in this country is rotten to the core, not least parasitic agents taking millions of pounds a year out of the game, with football wasting its riches in the same way successive governments wasted the North Sea oil revenues.

"Now, while the select committee has done a good job with its report and recommendations, would you agree with me that what is needed now is a Royal Commission into professional football to clean up the game?"

Ms Grant replied: "I don't agree with what you have said. The football authorities brought in and introduced some reforms in August.

"Those reforms included smaller boards and a new licensing system to deal with ownership and financial matters and to try to improve relations with supporters.

"A start certainly has been made, more definitely needs to be done and, of course, if it's not done there's always the option of legislation."

PA

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