POSTED: October 10th 2012

NEIL WILSON: All bets are off but for how long?

A screenshot about the Melpierre film / Arte
A screenshot about the Melpierre film / Arte

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

October 10 - The Irish sailor who was ‘outed’ before the London Olympics for winning on a bet against himself has been let off with the mildest of warnings. His bets won him $4,800 during the Beijing Games but he was so much of an outsider himself it was decided that he could not have influenced the winning result.

He was guilty not of corruption but of naivety, and  IOC president Jacques Rogge’s fears expressed before London about competitors throwing events to assist in betting coups appear not to have been realised. No unusual patterns of betting were reported to a group chaired by Britain’s Olympic minister Hugh Robertson which liased with betting companies.

This is not to say that Rogge was wrong. The Olympic Games has yet to be affected because the market for Olympic bets is so small in comparison with commercial sports, just about every one of which has suffered.

European film-maker Herve Martin Delpierre produced a remarkable film recently on corruption in sport that alleged that $140 billion was generated annually by match fixing. It is a staggering figure that dwarfs the GDP of many countries. Only this month the Indian state TV channel’s sting operation uncovered six international cricket umpires willing to discuss the possibility of giving decisions to favour gamblers.

That followed immediately upon the allegation that two professional football players in Britain were involved in an illegal betting coup in horse racing, and not long after three Pakistan cricketers were imprisoned there for spot betting fraud.

No professional sport can claim to be untouched. A quick search on the internet reveals that as well as soccer, cricket and horse racing, NBA, rugby league, Australian Rules and snooker have been tarnished in recent years.

World Lottery Association executive Andrew Chaker, speaking this month during the FIFA under-17 tournament in Baku, described sport as an easy target, “not very well organised, a lot of second and third division organisations are poor and very malleable, very much subject to influence from those who engage in illegal betting.”

He pointed out that there are 15,000 sites where you can place bets, and fewer than 200 of those are licensed by state authorities.

Rogge though is right still to be concerned. Where there is money there will be corruption, and the more popular the Olympic Games becomes the more vulnerable it is. WADA, created originally at the IOC’s prompting, is tackling one sort of corruption but as Chaker told journalists in Baku: “We’re nowhere close to where we are with doping. I predict we will see much more corruption in the future.”

Link to the Delpierre film:

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · betting in sports · Olympics

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