Gambling

Written evidence submitted by the Professional Players Federation (GA 03)

Introduction

1. The Professional Players Federation is the national federation for 11 player associations in the UK with the membership representing more than 15,000 athletes in a range of professional sports. We are a not-for-profit body established in 1991 to promote, protect and develop the collective interests of professional sportsmen and women.

2. The PPF and its members have a keen interest in the issues surrounding sports betting and match fixing. The Committee will be aware that the Gambling Act introduced a new offence of cheating and that match fixing remains a high profile issue in the media.

3. It is something of a truism but the only people who can fix a match are those participating in it. The players (and referees) are in the front line in the fight to protect sporting integrity.

4. Our submission will concentrate on the issues surrounding sports betting integrity with an emphasis on the ground breaking education work we are delivering through the members thanks to our partnership with Remote Gambling Association and three of its members (Ladbrokes, bet365 and Betfair).

Gambling Act

5. The PPF welcomed the introduction of the new offense of cheating and believes that the appropriate authorities, including the police, Gambling Commission and sports federations are now starting to develop better protocols for cooperation on investigations.

6. It is often extremely hard to prove in a court of law beyond all reasonable doubt that a match was fixed. It is therefore likely that sports governing bodies will be best placed to protect the integrity of their sport and punish participants for breaches of their regulations. It is often the case that a ban from their sport will be a much greater punishment for players than anything the courts would normally impose.

7. We remain to be convinced of any need to increase the maximum penalty for the offense of cheating beyond two years. Nevertheless we recognise that potential corrupting influences will be outside the remit of the sports federations and the assistance of the police and the Gambling Commission will often be required in any investigations concerning organised corruption.

Prevalence

8. Whilst there have been a number of high profile cases concerning match fixing and sports betting integrity, the PPF is firmly of the opinion that the vast majority of British sport is clean. That is not to say that there is any room for complacency, but it is important to consider the facts rather than rumours and allegations. Unusual or suspicious betting patterns do not in themselves mean that an event has been fixed, as there may be a number of legitimate reasons for these anomalies.

9. In the majority of cases that the PPF is aware of since the introduction of the Gambling Act it has been players making technical breaches of their sports rules, either by betting on themselves or through the misuse of inside information, rather than cheating connected with organised crime.

The Need for Sports Betting Education

10. In February 2010, the PPF announced a three year deal with the Remote Gambling Association and three of its members (bet365, Ladbrokes and Betfair) which provided funding to educate players about sports betting integrity issues.

11. At the start of this new partnership, through the Professional Footballers Association, we commissioned extensive research in English football about betting. This found that less than 60% of players knew the rules on betting in their sport (they are not allowed to bet on any competition they are involved in) and less than 40% of players knew the rules on passing "inside information". These findings were supported by subsequent research when the Rugby Players Association found that in rugby union 59% of players surveyed [1] were not previously aware of the regulations within betting.

12. The above research amply demonstrated the need for an effective sports betting education campaign in British sport.

13. In the first year of the partnership, four pilot projects were developed and delivered by the player associations in English Football, Scottish Football, English Rugby Union and Cricket. More than 2,400 professional athletes have been provided with face-to-face education on sports betting integrity issues. The initial pilot projects covered a range of different areas and will be assessed and expanded in 2011 and 2012.

14. The four pilot projects in 2010 were as follows:

14.1 The Professional Footballers Association researched footballers understanding on the current regulations around betting and inside information. This identified the need for targeted education and showed the most appropriate communication methods for different groups. This was followed up by tutor training courses for the PFA Executives, who are responsible for delivering support and information to players within football clubs.

14.2 The Professional Cricketers Association has developed a web-based interactive programme on betting and corruption education in cricket. The programme includes a ‘test’ section which allows them to certificate participants who have completed it and to check comprehension. It was recently rolled out to all the 400 first class professional cricketers in England and has already been completed by over a quarter of them. Feedback shows that the programme has been well received and it is likely to be adapted by several other sports for use by their participants.

14.3 The Rugby (Union) Players Association designed and developed a customised betting integrity education programme and responsible gambling policy, which they delivered at a series of seminars covering all 12 Aviva Premiership clubs. The delivery of this programme was supported by tutor training for the RPA’s player development managers.

14. 4 PFA Scotland has set up a pilot scheme with 8 clubs from various levels within the Scottish game. Working with the senior management at the clubs, awareness sessions for both professionals and apprentices were designed and delivered covering integrity and responsible gambling.

15. In 2011, the PPF and its partners in the betting industry formally signed up to the Code of Conduct on Sports Betting for Players which it helped to develop in partnership with its European federation of player associations, EU Athletes. This Code sets out the guiding principles for sports betting education for players and a copy is attached for information of the Committee (enc).

Gambling Commission

16. The PPF has developed a good working relationship with the Gambling Commission which has recognised the need to ensure that all sports stakeholders are involved in discussions on policy and practice.

17. The Commission has also recognised the need to educate participants in sport about the dangers of match fixing and sports betting integrity. The advice and support from the Commission for the PPF education programmes contributes significantly to their aim of keeping crime out of gambling in the UK.

Conclusions

18. Whilst it is important to keep a sense of perspective on the scale of the threat of match fixing in the UK, there is no room for complacency.

19. Educating players about sports betting integrity is a vital tool in protecting the UK sport’s high reputation for sporting integrity.

20. Face-to-face education for all professional players in the UK is recognised as the best way of educating players. However it is time consuming, labour intensive and expensive. Furthermore the message will need to be regularly reinforced to players each year with greater emphasis given to new players entering the sport. The ongoing financial support of the RGA and its members is to be applauded and consideration should be given to how the public sector can add value to this private sector funding stream.

21. Protecting sporting integrity effectively will require partnership working between federations, government agencies, the betting industry and especially the players and officials.

June 2011


[1] Figures are based on 187 surveys from 12 Premiership Clubs.

Prepared 29th July 2011