Exclusive

Exclusive: Gambling is 'bigger threat to sport than doping'

Authorities intend to make players register every bet to weed out corruption

Professional sportsmen and women face having to register every bet they make under stringent reforms intended to root out corrupt gambling.

In the past 17 months, the industry watchdog the Gambling Commission has investigated 47 cases of alleged match-fixing and illegal betting on British sporting events, The Independent has learnt. The governing bodies of football, tennis, cricket, horse racing and other sports are discussing with ministers plans for tough new regulations which they hope will stamp out what they consider to be "as great a risk to the integrity of sport as doping".

One senior official explained the threat to the country's most popular spectator events, saying: "Football, rugby and cricket don't have a doping problem, but they know they have serious gambling problems."

British sporting officials have privately voiced concerns to the Government about insider betting. The Sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, will take the lead in negotiations with the governing bodies and the Gambling Commission to combat the threat.

A spokesman for the commission told The Independent that horse racing, football and snooker accounted for most of the match- fixing allegations, but it was widely accepted that cricket and tennis are among the other susceptible disciplines.

A "golden decade" lies ahead for British sport: London will host the 2012 Olympics, Glasgow has the 2014 Commonwealth Games and England is bidding to host the 2018 World Cup. But administrators fear these events could be undermined by a major betting scandal of the type seen abroad.

In 2000, the South Africa cricket captain Hansie Cronje admitted taking a £68,000 payment from bookmakers for providing them with match information to fix the results of games. He was banned from the sport for life, and later died in a plane crash.

The Football Association's current investigations include a match between Accrington Stanley and Bury in May last year, which led to reports of irregular betting patterns. It is also trying to establish who profited from a £1m punt on a non-league fixture between Weymouth and Rushden & Diamonds last month, when Weymouth fielded their reserve team and lost 9-0.

However, the FA faces an uphill struggle. In October, it began investigating a Championship match between Derby and Norwich following an alleged Asian betting sting. But it was forced to halt the inquiry because it has no jurisdiction outside the UK and could not establish who was behind the bets, which were all placed overseas. As one senior sports executive said last night: "A major betting scandal in any of our sports would be toxic for Britain's reputation. Complacency is not an option."

Punters across the globe flock to bet on British sport because it has a reputation for integrity and fairness. A range of strict new measures is proposed, such as random checks on betting firms' books to seek evidence of improper wagers, and monitoring all betting activity by professional sportspeople.

It could become mandatory for an athlete to be listed in a commission register – to be shared with gambling operators – that would trigger an investigation any time he placed a bet in contravention of his sport's rules, either with a traditional bookie or online. No such monitoring is in place now.

Sport and gambling have long been bedfellows. Footballers were renowned as punters long before the 1970s quip that "if Stan Bowles could pass a bookie like he could pass a ball, he would have had no worries". The existing rules do not forbid footballers from betting on football matches per se – only those they are involved in.

Jockeys are banned from betting on all horse racing, while trainers can back their own horse to win, but not to lose.

The sporting authorities will tell Mr Sutcliffe that they should have a greater say in what bets a bookmaker can offer, arguing that "high-risk markets" – which can be manipulated by just one person's actions – invite malpractice. Examples include the number of double-faults a tennis player will serve, eliciting a booking in football, or being run out in cricket. It is currently possible to bet on all of these.

No one knows the extent of corrupt betting in British sport, but the Gambling Commission told The Independent that in just 17 months it received 47 notifications of betting patterns that were sufficiently irregular that they may lead the commission to consider voiding a bet.

Of those, 35 involved betting firms notifying governing bodies of irregularities; the other 12 were a mix of governing bodies asking bookmakers to look at incidents, or the commission asking bookmakers to act on independent "intelligence".

Not all suspicious cases will be officially reported. The Independent understands, for example, that every season the FA begins inquiries into "about five or six" cases of what could widely be termed "gambling-related malpractice". Most of these are not reported to the Gambling Commission and are closed, perhaps after a warning to a player not to bet on his own team.

Rarer cases of concern involve insiders betting with prior knowledge of a likely defeat or another specific incident, such as a red card. These are complex and the FA's investigations – at least one of which is ongoing – are long and secretive. Tim Payton, a spokesman for a coalition of governing bodies that includes football, cricket and horse racing, among others, said: "Match fixing is as great a risk to the integrity of sport as doping. That is why the sports have been campaigning for greater regulation of sports betting for some time.

"We are encouraged that [Mr Sutcliffe] has responded positively to our suggestion that we work with his department and the Gambling Commission to review and strengthen the arrangements that are in place. British sport has a good reputation and wants to keep it that way. The budget for the UK's anti-doping programme has just increased to £8m a year. This includes a huge testing programme which has a considerable deterrent effect as participants know they face a high chance of being detected. The same rigour needs to be applied to match fixing."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?