The economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic could make sports more vulnerable to ‘corruption’ and ‘manipulation of competitions’, a paper published jointly by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Interpol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has warned. The analysis attributed a delay or decrease in salaries of players and other professionals in the industry as one of the key reasons.
After nearly a three-month hiatus, sports events globally are gradually starting to resume, albeit in a highly-sanitised environment and without any spectators at the stadium. So far though, it has largely been professional leagues that have begun, and the Formula 1 GP this weekend and the England-West Indies Test next week will be among the few international events that will be held as sport finds its way back in a post-Covid world.
However, these games are restarting amid an unprecedented financial crisis that has engulfed the entire industry. Players have been furloughed or asked to take a salary cut, hundreds of jobs within sports organisations have been lost in different countries, and teams are starting to go under because of the strain caused by the pandemic.
The IOC said ‘ensuring integrity of the sport is at the core of the new normal for sport and is essential for it to emerge from the pandemic.’ It has also advised governments and organisations to ‘develop tools’ to detect and report corruption in sport and prevent manipulation.
“As salaries of sports professionals may be impacted, through reductions or delays in payments, and the economic situation places pressure on sport, criminal groups and corruptors may seek to exploit this situation to gain influence,” the paper stated. “(sic) Those involved in anti-corruption in sport and specifically the prevention of the manipulation of competitions might be using this period to strengthen and enhance their existing networks, as well as to make new approaches.”
The tri-party paper has suggested considering ‘avoiding decreasing salaries of those most vulnerable and severely affected or make it temporary.’ “If salary decreases are implemented for top athletes, it is also recommended that the ensuing savings be used to support the most vulnerable and severely-affected athletes, sports organisations and related employees,” it added.
Earlier this week, the chief of Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Anti-Corruption Unit, Ajit Singh, emphasised on the need of having a law against match-fixing. The IOC, Interpol, and UNODC, too, have urged to evaluate and ‘enforce national legislation criminalising bribery and other forms of corruption’.
It has urged the organisations to ‘use this time to adopt relevant regulations notably in relation to prohibitions of betting on one’s sport, sharing inside information, corrupt conduct/competition manipulations, obligation to report.’
In India, there have been attempts in the past to frame a law in relation to this but little action has been taken so far. Vidushpat Singhania, who was the secretary to the Justice Mudgal-led IPL match-fixing probe committee, said: “Public officials are already covered under Prevention of Corruption Act. With the issue pertaining to manipulation of sports events, the Prevention of Sports Fraud Bill in 2013 was a draft legislation that was formed by the committee to deal with the issue and although there was no severe objection to it, the draft died a slow death.”
Two years ago, the law commission suggested making gambling legal so as to regulate it through a law. However, the government is yet to act on the report.
On Thursday, World Archery announced that two Indian archers, Rajat Chauhan and Aman Saini were among the 35 globally to receive a financial assistance of roughly $5,000 each. The grant, awarded to those whose income had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely to be routed via the respective national federations.
The paper underlines the need to ensure corruption and fraud is prevented and ‘those in greatest need of assistance qualify for and receive it.’
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