Why does integrity matter in sport? A legal expert weighs in on clean competitiont
Everyone hopes that the sports people they admire succeed by training hard and playing fair. Such belief in sport is a reason why integrity and honesty are so highly valued, and why fans cannot help but feel let down if standards are compromised.
One recent example of cheating in sport hitting the headlines across the globe was the Australian national cricket team being caught ball tampering during the tour of South Africa.
Although that is one of the most recent high-profile examples of a breakdown of integrity in sport, it is not an isolated incident.
Andy Nolan, managing associate at Brodies, one of Scotland’s largest law firms, which has a number of sporting clients, says that confidence in clean sport has dropped in recent times, and that is not good news for anyone involved.
“In terms of integrity, I think that everyone who participates in sport expects legitimate and fair competition.
“A sport that displays integrity can be recognised as honest and genuine in its dealings,” says Nolan.
He hopes that by highlighting the issue of corruption, law firms such as Brodies can raise awareness of the real benefits associated with integrity and the commercial upsides of being involved in clean sport.
There are many ways that integrity in sport can be compromised.
Corruption can include match fixing, illegal gambling and doping.
Doping is not a criminal offence in the UK – although it is in Australia, France and Italy – it has a negative impact on the reputation of sport and sanctions against it are tough.
Nolan believes integrity in sport is vital for a number of reasons – it increases loyalty among fans, more young people will want to participate and it makes it financially viable in terms of attracting funding and sponsors.
“The survival of sport relies on ensuring it is true to its values, principles and rules,” says Nolan.
He believes there are a number of reasons why corruption in sport has come to the fore recently and why the likes of illegal betting has increased.
Firstly, there is more money involved than ever before.
Some estimates value the global sports betting market at around $1 trillion a year, but of that a staggering 90 per cent is illegal.
Secondly, involvement in betting markets has increased as a result of technology with the ease of access provided through smartphones and tablets.
As well as accusations of corruption in established pursuits such as athletics, football and cycling, the multi-million pound business of electronic sports (esports) – video or computer games played competitively between individuals or teams – is also caught in the storm.
“You have the concept of match fixing creeping into esports as well as edoping.
“Edoping involves using hack or cheat software to gain an advantage over an opponent.
“There is also the issue of some players using performance-enhancing drugs,” says Nolan.
Such corruption in esports is being taken seriously.
In 2015, Korean law enforcement officers arrested 12 people over alleged match-fixing in a game called StarCraft II as part of a crackdown on organised crime.
Nolan believes that a change in attitude is required to protect the integrity of all sports, along with greater collaboration between governing bodies.
“When it comes to deterrence, tough, disciplinary legal sanctions have to be imposed against athletes and officials involved in corruption.
“Law enforcement agencies need to devote sufficient time and resources to deter organisations from perpetrating and profiting from criminal activities,” he says.
“Technology is going to be a solution. Analytical data will play a prominent role in prosecution of match fixing cases.
“I think that tribunals are giving increasing weight to suspicious betting data.”
Nolan ends on a note of optimism when it comes to protecting the integrity of sport, pointing to the examples of the High Integrity Anti-Doping Partnership launched for
the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast and the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions.
“There is clearly work being done on a pan-European and global stage to tackle corruption,” he says.
The Brodies Tennis Invitational at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire is on 22 and 23 June. For details and tickets, visit brodiesinvitational.com