Together … new rules will cover a range of sports, including AFL. Photo: Phil Carrick
THE scourge of match-fixing will be the focus of a new national integrity of sport unit that will co-ordinate sporting groups and government's efforts to battle corruption in sport, in particular illegal betting.
The Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, and the Greens sports spokesman, Richard Di Natale, on Wednesday announced the unit, which was agreed to with states at the last heads of government meeting.
With the rise of sports betting, particularly online, the unit will develop a standard for information sharing between sports and the bookmakers as well as ensuring ''a rapid, nationally co-ordinated response when instances of irregular betting are detected''.
Other projects include developing education programs to prevent match-fixing and working with regulators and law enforcement officers to develop nationally consistent criminal legislation.
''The scourge of match-fixing and illegal betting undermines the integrity of sporting events and competitions and only cheats the participants and sport fans,'' Senator Lundy said.
''Co-operation between the state and territories governments and collaboration with the betting industry is critical to improving standards and protecting the integrity of sport.'' The integrity unit will work also with other countries and international sports.
Senator Di Natale said the intersection of sport and gambling could be corrosive.
''The Greens also believe that much more needs to be done to combat the growth of gambling sponsorship and advertising during sport broadcasts. That is the next phase of this debate,'' he said.
Racing NSW's chief steward, Ray Murrihy, said a move like this had to be ''applauded because it is a starting point. It will co-ordinate and give a central point for the collection of intelligence,'' he said.
''However, it is still up to the sporting organisations to have structures in place to catch cheating and that means monitoring of betting and betting trends.
''Racing as a sport that is built on gambling spends millions of dollars on its integrity.''
The Coalition of Major Professional & Participation Sports executive director, Malcolm Speed, said the group - AFL, NRL, cricket, rugby, tennis, netball and soccer - were very supportive of the unit and had helped government in the unit's development.
Mr Speed said the majority of members already had comprehensive anti-corruption policies in place and there would continue to be information sharing between sports and government.
Many betting agencies already have information sharing agreements with sports. Major online bookmaker sportsbet.com.au welcomed the unit, saying it had a zero tolerance policy on corruption in sport. ''Which is why we strongly favour harsher penalties for those who break the rules and that illegal betting should be shut down,'' chief executive Cormac Barry said.
''One of the most effective ways of minimising corruption in Australian sport is to ensure the majority of bets on Australian sporting events are placed with reputable Australian-based companies and not the thousands of unregulated foreign websites that offer odds on Australian sport,'' he said.
with Chris Roots