<em>Illustration: Michael Mucci</em>


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Illustration: michaelmucci.com

BETTING agencies should become partners in the fight against corruption by allocating part of their profits to official initiatives - including programs to tackle addiction and mental illness among athletes - according to one of the world's leading experts on crime in sport.

Canadian investigator Declan Hill's international best seller The Fix blew the lid on sports corruption, particularly in football, and detailed the complex links between sports and organised crime.

In 2009 Hill warned that Australia's sporting obsession and gambling culture, including among some athletes, was a recipe for problems. He said he was pleased Australian authorities were now ''rolling up their sleeves'' and facing the issue. However, as long as the ''unspoken problem'' of addiction among athletes was kept quiet, one of the gateways to corruption would remain open. He said it was in all parties' interests for betting agencies to contribute.

''Betting agencies should start walking the walk,'' Hill told Fairfax Media from Canada. ''You guys have some really good leaders in anti-corruption and the betting agencies should sit down with them, acknowledge that they make money off sports and contribute a small portion of that towards protecting the integrity of sport.''

It would lead to the betting agencies being ''partners'' in tackling the problem, rather than liabilities, he said. Part of that money would have to go towards a comprehensive policy of addressing addictive behaviour among athletes.

''This is one of the great unspoken factors at the heart of all of this,'' Hill said. ''Mental illness and addictive behaviour among athletes is higher than elsewhere because of the stresses on them are much higher. Addictive behaviour in gambling is particularly problematic because we know that gambling is a gateway towards corruption.

''An athlete making a lot of money may be less likely to be involved in match-fixing. But if they are gamblers, there can be a problem. And, there's almost always a problem gambler in a professional sports team. You don't often hear about it because athletes are too often told to shut up and say nothing about their problem, be it alcohol or gambling or whatever.''

Hill is pleased that Australian authorities have acknowledged the reality of drugs and match-fixing. He is dismayed by some backlash from those claiming all sports and athletes had been tarnished because names were not mentioned. The same complaints are being aired in Europe, where police announced on Monday they were investigating allegations of international matches being fixed in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

''There is an 'athletic-industrial complex' [boys' club] and they're frantically hitting back,'' Hill said. ''The good guys are saying 'We've got a problem. Let's solve it and protect sport'. The people who are complaining about action being taken are living in a dream world. What they're doing is seriously disadvantaging the good guys in this fight. You can feel it in Europe, the athletic-industrial complex hitting back. It's completely misguided.''