STAMPING out match-fixing is front and centre as the Australian Open commences, and the Victorian Police plan to combat it via a new Agreement with the European Sports Security Association (ESSA).
In a world-first Letter of Agreement, the Victorian police will now receive alerts from the international sports regulatory body regarding suspicious behaviour and match-fixing.
Investigators will receive real-time alerts from the not-for-profit organisation ESSA, allowing the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit to act instantly. The Victorian Intelligence Unit, created in 2013, works with racing and sporting bodies to focus on integrity issues across all sports.
Members of the ESSA include several prominent offline and online sports betting companies located in Australia and the rest of the world.
The ESSA’s main role is to detect and deter corruption in sports betting markets via an early warning system.
The Agreement will be in place for the Australian Open, giving answers to fans who were waiting to see how authorities would strengthen the sports’ integrity after the 2016 scandal which still plagues the tournament.
London news reports linked top-ranked Tennis players to corruption and match-fixing at the time, prompting governing bodies, including the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), to investigate anti-corruption protocols.
The ESSA initially only shared data with sporting federations and gambling regulators. Police would have to wait for the alerts to be sent from sporting bodies before they could act and given there were 130 alerts of suspicious activity in 2016, the Agreement will likely improve the Intelligence Unit’s investigations.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter Brigham said the alerts “gives our investigators the ability to act quickly and even attend the sporting event in question to immediately commence the investigation.”
“The challenge for police is to stay ahead of the game when it comes to this offending and to continually strive to create an environment where it’s difficult for those criminals to exist,” Brigham added in a media release.
“This agreement with ESSA highlights Victoria Police’s commitment to taking steps to create an environment that will make it difficult for organised crime to infiltrate our shores and our sporting codes.”
TIU has been proactive in investigating match-fixing claims in the past few years, and has added staff and focused on education and intelligence to become a reputable integrity organisation in professional sport.
The TIU revealed that in 2017 it received 241 betting alerts from land-based and online bookmakers. The Victorian Intelligence Unit likely received selected alerts, after first being put through a detailed process with the betting operator and other resources.
It follows the cricket match-fixing allegations as revealed by British newspaper The Sun. The UK newspaper’s dossier featured two Indian bookmakers who claimed they could rig periods of play in international cricket.
The report, released days before the third test of the 2017/18 Ashes Test, sparked an international debate about corruption and the best ways to tackle match-fixing.
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