Tim Lamb: This corrosive influence must be stopped

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The Independent Online

Match-fixing and corrupt sports betting is cheating at its worst, often perpetrated by people whom you should suspect the least. It is corrosive in all levels of sport and that is why the sporting community takes it so seriously. From the spectator to the social player, from the punter to the professional, the damage it causes is inestimable.

I was chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board when, in 2000, the full extent of Hansie Cronje's wrongdoings were exposed. His admission of taking cash to influence the outcome of games being played at the highest level, while exposed to the scrutiny of the cricket-watching world, shocked everyone involved.

I had been a first-class player myself and knew the dedication and hard work it took to reach the professional game – so why would anyone jeopardise everything for a few quid? In the light of this week's atrocities against the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan, it is easy to see how sport can be brought still lower by the malice of others, but at the time it was difficult to imagine how the future of the sport could have any more havoc wrought upon it.

As ECB chief executive, I knew that we had to take every step possible to prevent match-fixing or risk cricket falling into ruin. And now, as chief executive of CCPR, the alliance of sports governing bodies, I know it is vital to ensure that every sport takes sports betting and its risks just as seriously.

Sport is working to ensure that its own house is in order in a number of ways. CCPR has commissioned and shared independent research that shows where the danger to sport is most acute. We have lobbied hard to ensure gambling companies have a duty to share information on suspicious betting patterns. And we are undertaking a project to assess exactly how well equipped our members are to prevent corrupt betting and to deal with it when it arises.

Sport and betting have always been closely linked and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to disentangle the two now. But betting (excluding horse racing) has grown by more than 1,500 per cent since the mid-Eighties and the possibilities for corruption have grown with it. It is now time for the industry to give something back to the sports governing bodies whose events it has piggybacked on for so long by helping sport to invest in the expensive processes it now needs to maintain its integrity.

There is also a role for the UK government to lead a global fight against corruption in sports betting. Momentum is being made at EU level, where a key vote will take place next week, but betting and its sinister tentacles spread across the globe and that is where the battle must eventually be joined.

No one expected Hansie Cronje to be a cheat. That is why corruption in sports betting is so insidious – it has most chance to fester where you least expect it.

Tim Lamb is chief executive of CCPR, the alliance of governing and representative bodies of sport and recreation. After a career in first-class cricket, he was chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board in 1996-2004