Coming to a game near you: IRB joins IOC’s fight against match-fixing
Penalties, dropped passes, forward passes or even missed tackles might all be viewed with suspicion in future, and will come under scrutiny with the International Rugby Board reaffirming its commitment to the fight against illegal betting, match-fixing and corruption.
The IRB last week signed up to the International Olympic Committee’s Integrity Betting Intelligence System (IBIS), an intelligence-sharing digital platform which will enable the IRB and its unions to access an extensive network of monitoring and data-sharing across sports, event owners and major sports betting entities.
Its main goal is to safeguard the game from illegal sports betting. This scourge is widespread and rife in the two other team sports propagated by the British when the sun never set on its empire – cricket and football.
Cricket has been ridden with scandals ever since former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje admitted in 2000 he had accepted money to fix games. Only last month former New Zealand test batsman and one-time batting coach for Hong Kong Lou Vincent was charged with corruption after providing information to match-fixing investigators.
In football, corruption is even more deep-rooted. Leagues from Finland to Singapore have been compromised. One of the most famous syndicates was based in Singapore and they had their dirty hands deep in the game. It was estimated the cash-rich Asian market wagered more than US$1 trillion annually.
Hong Kong’s huge illegal sports betting market generated HK$500 billion in turnover last year, the SCMP revealed last weekend.
Looking back, we think even the Hong Kong Sixes was affected, especially the final in 2010 when Pakistan conceded 46 runs in the last over to allow Australia to win for the first time. Soccer has a more widespread criminal element, not surprising considering it’s the world’s most popular game.
Thankfully rugby has remained unaffected ... so far. “Match fixing and corruption is one of the biggest threats to all sports and while there is no history of prevalence in rugby, it is important we continue to drive forward measures that educate and safeguard the rugby community from such threats,” says chairman Bernard Lapasset.
It is not surprising the IRB is the first major international governing body to join the Olympic fight. A former top official, Kit McConnell, recently moved jobs to become the IOC sports director. Every step must be taken to safeguard rugby.
It would be only too easy for a sevens game to be fixed and it is understood the final two legs of the IRB Sevens World Series last season, in Scotland and London, were under scrutiny by IBIS. All matches were declared clear and incident-free from an integrity perspective.
The referee, already the most vilified person on the field, will now come under even more examination. There have been plenty of cases in football where the match official has been involved in match-fixing. The power to award a penalty or a red card can be easily abused. No one is above suspicion.
Players still adhere to the principles of honesty and integrity. Let’s hope it stays this way.