Written evidence submitted by the Football Association (GA 029)

The FA, the governing body of football in England, is responsible for developing and regulating the game at all levels from international football to the grassroots. The FA is a not-for-profit organisation and every month nearly seven million people play some form of the game with 131,000 FA-affiliated teams playing in over 1,200 leagues supported by 400,000 volunteers.

Maintaining the integrity of sport is vital to its participatory and commercial survival. The FA and the football authorities have invested in measures to tackle integrity issues arising out of betting activity including the establishment of an integrity unit and Football Integrity Working Group. The FA is also a member of the Sports Betting Group, the Sports Rights Owners Coalition, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and was a leading participant in the 2010 Parry Report. Alongside this submission we endorse the consultation response from the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the arguments proposed by the Sports Rights Owners Coalition.

To tackle integrity in relation to betting effectively we believe it is necessary for there to be in place an integrated strategy across government, relevant national agencies, the betting industry and sport. An essential part of this strategy is the need for a legislative framework that recognises the specific attributes of sport and its particular exposure in relation to betting activity. This framework must deter criminal conduct, be risk based, strategically driven, make the best use of resources and facilitate expedited investigations and outcomes through the establishment of partnerships with sports bodies, enforcement agencies and the betting industry.

At present, we have concerns that the Gambling Act and the implementation of the provisions contained within it do not meet this challenge and therefore the licensing objectives of preventing gambling from being a source of crime and ensuring gambling is conducted in a fair and open way are not being fulfilled in the context of sport.  

We would argue that in order to minimise the risk to the integrity of sport it is necessary to undertake a comprehensive review leading to a number of measures/amendments to the Gambling Act and an adjustment to the approach of the Gambling Commission and other law enforcement agencies in various implementation matters. Such measures are required to meet the unique requirements of sport and, in particular to:

· help avoid/minimise the risk of potential offences arising,

· create an effective deterrent to offending,

· provide access to intelligence and betting market information to sports,

· identify irregular or suspicious betting activity,

· conduct appropriate disruption techniques,

· allow a robust/expedited response and investigation mechanism leading to proportionate outcomes,

· establish a framework of sports specific thresholds for reporting suspicious/irregular betting activity .

Therefore the following areas might be considered as part of the review:

Bet determination: It is necessary for both the ability to bet and the type of bets taken on a sport to be determined by the sport concerned itself. This would allow each sport based on its particular characteristics and risk profile to identify those bets that create particular threats to its integrity and/or reputation thereby avoiding identifiable moral hazards within the sport and minimising the prospect of offending. The establishment of a formal legal relationship between the sport and the betting companies would be a significant step forward in this regard, and would rectify the loss of rights football suffered from the ECJ ruling on football fixtures.

Offence of cheating: The offence of Cheating under section 42 of the Gambling Act must be made clearer and more explicit so as to provide an effective deterrent to wrongdoing and avoid confusion over whether particular offending may constitute cheating which could create a disinclination to pursue criminal charges. As part of this process of reviewing the offence of cheating, other criminal offences relating to fraudulent activity in association with betting also need to be reviewed within a sports specific context. At present there is confusion over the relevant laws under which fraudulent activity associated with sport and betting should be pursued and this needs to be resolved as part of the review of the Gambling Act.

Sanctions: It is necessary to review the maximum sanctions for offences under the Gambling Act and for offences involving other fraudulent activity associated with sport and betting to ensure that an effective deterrent to such activity is provided and that such offences will be viewed by the relevant law enforcement agencies with the appropriate level of seriousness when considering resource allocation and the exercise of investigative/charging discretion.  

Intelligence gathering: The availability of intelligence and data on betting activity is a vital part of the deterrent to offending, the ability for sport to undertake disruption measures pre-event and to allow thorough investigations into particular incidents. License condition 15.1 which places an obligation on betting operators to communicate irregular or suspicious betting activity to sports governing bodies is integral to achieving this objective. However, license condition 15.1 can only work effectively if those betting operators taking bets and/or promoting betting activity in the UK market place are bound by its provisions. Many operators have now moved overseas and beyond the jurisdiction of the Gambling Act/License condition 15.1. This means that sport has no legally binding support for the disclosure of information on irregular or suspicious betting activity from overseas operators. Memorandums of understanding are not legally binding on betting operators and therefore do not represent an adequate substitute for license condition 15.1. This is a substantial gap in the integrity defences for sport and needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency by applying appropriate licensing conditions and disclosure obligations to those betting operators that wish to take bets or promote their services in the UK. The Government consultation on this issue must be resolved expeditiously.

Role of the Gambling Commission: The Gambling Act incorporates various regulatory and investigative powers for the Gambling Commission; however the scope of these powers should be reviewed to ensure that investigations undertaken can be comprehensive and expedited. In this regard the relationship between police powers and those of the Gambling Commission needs to be reviewed to ensure the appropriate balance is in place and that the relevant bodies can conclude investigations as efficiently and as swiftly as possible. If it is the case that, as a general rule, the police will not be pursuing offenses associated with sport then consideration should be given to further empowering the Gambling Commission to undertake the relevant investigations.

Additional resources: Whilst the Gambling Commission is making progress, particularly following the Parry report, additional resource for the activities of the Gambling Commission should be provided to assist in its activities within the sport sector. The Gambling Act does not appropriately prioritise sport or recognise its unique vulnerability thereby leading to an apparent failure to prioritise resource for investigations and deterrent activity within the state agencies. The Act should be amended and include a specific sports section that can set out all of the measures for the sector. If the recommendation of the Parry report to deliver an effective sports betting intelligence unit is to be delivered then additional resource is required. A key aim of the unit is to build up intelligence across sport and betting to be able to support sports governing bodies and betting operators own prevention and deterrent effort by the provision of relevant pooled intelligence as well as supporting the Gambling Commission’s own law enforcement efforts. This objective can only be delivered if there is an appropriate prioritisation for sport within the Gambling Act and the activities of the Gambling Commission are backed up by the necessary resource investment.

By focussing more on the needs of sport within the Gambling Act (which is justified given the particular vulnerability of sport) and by requiring a greater priority to be given to sport by the Gambling Commission and/or police (as appropriate) investigation times should be shorter and the deterrent to illegal activity greater. In short, we would favour a full review of the existing provisions within the Gambling Act relating to sport and the enforcement/prosecution procedures of the Gambling Commission within the context of the unique threats, risks and challenges for sport in this area.

June 2011

Prepared 29th July 2011