All over the world, modern sport is being threatened by a plethora of fraudulent practices, which have put the integrity of sports events and competitions into question. Such corrupt practices include, among others, doping by athletes, illegal transfers of very young football players, age bending fraud, bribing of officials, and match-fixing.
Real time online sports betting can also facilitate manipulation of sport competitions, a phenomenon which now threatens many sports, most especially football, cricket, tennis, basketball, and motor racing. The advent of internet has transformed the sports betting market into a multi-billion dollar industry, with transnational sports-betting market now estimated to be around 350 billion Euros, of which over 80% is illegal.
The roundtable on sport and fraud was organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies to among other things address fraudulent practices in sports.
The event which was held at the old court room of the Supreme Court of
Nigeria, Abuja was declared open by Professor Adedeji Adekunle, the Director
General of NIALS. In attendance were officials of the EFCC, ICPC, and the
Federal Ministry of Justice in addition to a cross section of the public. Panelists at the roundtable and topics examined are the following -
(a) Mr. Amaju Patrick President NFF (ably represented by Dr. Moh’d Sanusi) -
GAME FIXING IN PROFESSIONAL SPORT; WHAT DOES THE LAW PROVIDE?
(b) Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen – Sports commentator - WHISTLE BLOWING AND FRAUD IN SPORTS.
(c) Mr. Segun Agbede Cool FM - BEST PRACTICES IN COMBATING MATCH FIXING AND MANIPULATION.
(d) Mr Okike Ajanwachukwu Nials Faculty - REGULATION/ LEGAL FRAME-WORK FOR ONLINE BETTING IN NIGERIA.
Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi the HOD of Public Law Department at NIALS, moderated the entire session of the Roundtable. In the course of the Roundtable, participants:
1. Sports are Physical contests pursued for the goals and challenges they entail, and is part of every past and present culture.
2. The Society can be transformed through sports given its great popularity and acceptance.
3. Sports can be put to use as a progressive mechanism in the service of a variety of political aims.
4. At the end of the Nigerian civil war sports was used as an instrument of peace and unity exemplified by the creation of the National sports festival which brought all people of Nigeria to participate as one.
5. At the international level there have been numerous efforts, historically, to transform society through sports.
6. The exploitation of sports by the society itself raises the question of unethical practices in sports. Gambling, pools betting etc. in sports is replete with unethical motive and practices and whether we like it or not has been part of sports for over a century. Sports betting pose serious ethical challenges for the society and the stakeholders.
7. The justice system in sports do not commit to criminal charges but deal mainly with arbitrations and other non-criminal matters which are in variance with the sports technical rules, guidelines, statutes and through regulations. The system is set in codes of conduct at various levels of engagement culminating in the CAS Court for Arbitration for Sports at the apex of the justice grid.
8. Sporting countries are all signed to the CAS based in Switzerland. The judicial system frowns at and do not support taking sport related matters of technical nature to the normal courts for decision or settlements.
9. The IOC has an Ethics Commission which deals with issues of ethical nature both in governance and of a technical nature in sports. Other countries are
setting up legal structures to tackle sports legal issues within the context explained above. Nigeria is on the way to finally commit its NCAS to deal with all matters on sports technical and ethical issues as well.
10. It is also expected that the normal courts should help in understanding the need to respect the codes of sports and deal only with matters referred to it after a seeming impasse from the sports arbitration and judicial process.
11. Match-fixing (also described as sport manipulation, sporting fraud or spot- fixing) is an aspect of the larger corruption in sports, and involves the manipulation or attempted manipulation of a result or aspect of a game with the aim of securing financial gains on the sports betting market.
12. It has become a global phenomenon involving a host of participants: competitors, teams, sports agents, support staff, referees, administrators, and venue staff.
13. The range of practices in match-fixing include deliberate fixing of the result of a contest; deliberate underperformance; withdrawal from participation (so-called “tanking”); deliberate misapplication of the rules of the contest by officials; interference with the play or playing surfaces by venue staff: and abuse of insider information to support a bet placed by any of the above or placed by a gambler who has recruited such people to manipulate an outcome or contingency.
14. The underlying motivation for match-fixing in most cases is the desire to obtain direct or indirect economic benefits, usually linked to betting. There are also non-betting related incidences of match-fixing.
15. The global nature of sports means that no country is immune from the problem of match-fixing. Football matches have been rigged in several countries, including Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and Finland.
16. Although sports betting (known in local parlance as “pools betting”) has been in Nigeria for a long time (dating back at least to the 1970’s), because of the underdeveloped state of the local football league, non-betting cases of match-fixing are more common in the country than betting motivated cases.
17. As a form of corruption, match-fixing poses a significant threat to modern sports because it violates the ethics and integrity of sports.
18. There has been an established link between criminal organisations and match-fixing by governments and sports authorities around the world. Many established cases of match-fixing across Europe and Asia have been linked to well organized criminal syndicates that use online sports betting as a means for making and laundering money around the world.
19. Money laundering is the generic term used to describe the process by which criminals disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making such proceeds appear to have been derived from a legitimate source.
20. Nigeria is yet to have a legal framework that regulates online gambling and it is believed that the government is doing very little to monitor online operators advertising their services to Nigerian residents.
21. Absence of a legal framework could lead to loss of integrity in sports, money laundering, funding of terrorism and other forms of organized crime that can be hidden under a seemingly legitimate global business known as betting.
22. In response, many countries have adopted various means to combat match-fixing, including the enactment of appropriate national legislations, promotion of information exchange between countries and sports organisations; enhancement of international cooperation; and implementation of actions to increase awareness.
23. The National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) is empowered by the National Lottery Act (NLA 2005) to regulate the operation and businesses of the national lottery in Nigeria.
24. The Commission by the powers conferred on it by its enabling Act has the authority to among other things issue licenses to a body corporate to conduct the business of a national lottery to ensure a corrupt free, accountable and transparent process in order to protect the interests of participating stakeholders and the public in general.
25. The NLRC issues a Sports Lottery Permit (SLP) to a Sports Lottery Operator (SPO) who must be a corporate body and holders of these permits must confine their businesses to sporting activities.
26. The proposed Sports Court of Arbitration in Nigeria cannot exist outside the Nigerian Legal and judicial system. Their jurisdiction under our constitutional arrangement will be ultimately subject to supervisory jurisdiction of the superior courts of record established under section 6 of the constitution.
27. Sports Institutions are generally weak due to poor governance and lack of transparency.
28. Today in Nigeria, the number of online betting companies domiciled in Nigeria is on the increase and effective regulation should entail more efficient control of these bookmakers and earning revenue for government while at the same time saving the unsuspecting gambler from fraudsters.
29. A desire to win is good and most benefits occur when extreme effort is made and causal effort does not often result in desirable benefits.
30. The desire to win should be guided by a wholesome philosophy and ethics of competition.
31. Sport should promote the most cherished values of the Nigerian people.
32. Internally, a whistleblower can bring his/her accusations to attention of other people within the accused organization.
33. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of an accused organization. She/he can reach out to the media, government, law enforcement agents or those who are concerned.
34. Whistleblowers also face stiff reprisal/retaliation from those who are the subject of such allegations or wrongdoings
35. Legal protection can also be granted to protect whistleblowers, but that protection is subject to many stipulations. Hundreds of laws grant protection to whistleblowers, but stipulations can easily cloud that protection and leave whistleblowers vulnerable to retaliation and legal action.
36. Nigeria has had her fair share of the growing urge to win competitions at all costs with the attendant negative consequences.
37. In Nigeria we have witnessed the steady growth of the desire to win competitions through means that are far from being fair.
38. The 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009 editions of the National Sports Festival further sign posted this negative trend in our sports exploits. In these festivals, it was reported that host states embarked on a number of sharp practices including bribery and outright poaching of athletes in order to pave way for their athletes to excel.
39. If these non-violent methods fail, they are usually left with no alternative than to have victory by force.
40. Broadly speaking, poaching is advantageous to the players in that it exposes them to further areas of operation, it further challenges them to much harder work and above all improves their earning capacity. However poaching continues to leave the other team poorer and far from being in a state to compete in the future.
41. Monetization is not the best motivating tool available to sports handlers probably because it is not far reaching enough.
42. A poorly conditioned team cannot be hailed to victory by a supportive home crowd when the required skills to deliver victory are absent.
43. Researchers in the area of sports and society are agreed that one of the most potent causes of violence in sports is usually connected with the bending of competition rules.
44. Sportsmen and women have become more desperate in their urge to secure victories for their teams which is definitely killing our sports.
45. In Britain, In spite of their highly effective regulatory legislation, the British authorities are strict on the bookmakers sponsoring football clubs. The British Gambling Act forbids teams in the Barclays Premier League to advertise casinos and betting services that are not based within the European Economic Area (EEA) or part of the Gambling Commission White List.
46. In Lagos State, Nigeria, the state lottery board regulates and oversees online betting but it is obvious that its powers cannot go beyond its jurisdiction. The internet cannot be limited by jurisdiction, as multiple platforms can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
47. Any unregulated or under regulated industry can be subject to abuse. The problem with the inability of NLRC to effectively police online betting platforms goes beyond match fixing. Lifting the veil on these platforms can reveal serious underground criminal schemes such as Money Laundering schemes for drug cartels, small and light weapons dealers as well as funding terrorism rings.
48. The integrity of sports must be protected from fraud in order to avoid doubts concerning the authenticity of results.
49. In addition, the recognition of the fact that an effective fight against match-fixing will require cooperation between sport associations, public authorities and betting operators in recent years, in the form of an intelligence system, ethical code of conduct, integrity units or educational programs.
AND RECOMMENDED AS FOLLOWS:
1. Establishment of match-fixing as a specific criminal offence with commensurate sanctions in national laws is effective in addressing the problem of match-fixing.
2. Beyond substantive provisions in criminal law is whistle-blowing which can play a crucial role in the fight against corruption in sports particularly match- fixing. Whistle-blowing involves the disclosure of information related to wrong doings such as corrupt, illegal, fraudulent or hazardous activities being committed in or by public or private sector organisations.
3. The current scandal involving FIFA should serve as a wake-up call to the government, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), and all the other sports associations whose duty it is to regulate professional sports. All stakeholders must support the whistle-blower procedure which apart from encouraging players, coaches and staff to disclose such acts of match-fixing also protects them for such disclosure.
4. National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) must rise to the occasion and become more proactive. Regulating online betting platforms goes beyond generating revenues; the NLA 2005 envisages protection for users of online betting platforms.
5. The NLRC must collaborate with the Nigerian Football Federation, anti- graft bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) the Interpol through the Nigerian Police Force and other Lottery regulatory agencies across the world.
6. There must be a system of monitoring online platforms, such as the Federation of International Football Associations Early Warning Systems (EWS) which monitors betting on all FIFA matches and competitions in order to prevent negative influences from betting.
7. Also the NLRC and NFF should as a matter of urgency seek to ensure that all betting platforms both foreign and local are domiciled in Nigeria for effective regulation.
8. Furthermore, NLRC should equally screen and restrict if need be foreign based but locally unregistered online platforms from operating its domain names and web pages in the Nigerian cyberspace until they are registered as a body corporate under our own laws.
9. Sports Federations, Associations and other Agencies associated with the sports delivery system should be responsible for setting the proper context for fair play. Furthermore, these agencies should also be able at regular intervals, publish clear guidelines on what is considered to be ethical or unethical behavior and ensure that all levels and stations of competitions, consistent and appropriate incentives and, or, sanctions are applied.
10. It is necessary to enact an appropriate legal framework for sports administration in Nigeria.
11. Government needs to divest in sports. Private sector need to pump money into sports.
12. Sport is a veritable tool for social transformation and needs more attention like education. It can keep youths off the street.
13. The whistle blower Bill was passed by NASS recently. It is not clear if the President will assent but the Bill will complement anti-corruption fight.
14. It is important to start institutionalizing such measures and also consider Witness Protection measures too.
15. Players, Sportsmen need to engage professional Agents e.g legal practitioners, to act for them in contracts and similar engagements to avoid being short changed.
16. In combating match fixing there should be:
(a) Clear guidelines
(b) Regulation of participants behavior
(c) Periodic Bank account checks, of referees
(d) Disciplinary procedures and sanctions
(e) Data exchange
(f) Compliance and surveillance
17. Best practice in compliance needs to include some form of intelligence gathering, investigation and evidence gathering. In order to avoid the pitfalls of poor and lopsided officiating.
18. Officials should know the rules and must be able to interpret them accurately, they must recognize their responsibility to the players whether home or visiting, be good sportsmen, be courteous, honest, friendly, co-operative, impartial; and able to control the game at all times.
19. There has to be a procedure to register and determine those who are qualified. They should be required to pass examinations on rules of the sports and always be ready
20. There should be different avenues of Infusing Ethics in the Nigerian Sports Delivery System.
21. Since the issue of competition ethics and fair play has become a problem, it is incumbent on all stake holders (sports theorist, coaches, athletes and the public) to find ways of reducing its negative effects on sports by introducing whistle blowing in sport organizations.
22. It is posited that the potential benefits of fair play to society can only be maximized where fair play is moved from its current peripheral position to a central stage.
23. It must be given the highest priority by all those who directly or indirectly influence and promote sporting experiences for children and the youths.
24. Government should take responsibility for all actions, policy decisions aimed at promoting and encouraging whistle blowing in the society.
25. Furthermore, government should stimulate and support those organizations and individuals that have demonstrated the ethical principle in their exploits with sports.
26. Government should also encourage the education industry to include the promotion of sport and fair play as a central part of the human kinetics curriculum and encourage the regular conduct of researches both nationally and internationally.
27. Sports federations, associations and other agencies associated with the sports delivery system should be responsible for setting the proper context for fair play.
28. Furthermore, sport agencies should be able at regular intervals, publish clear guidelines on what is considered to be ethical or unethical behaviour and ensure that at all levels and stations of competitions consistent and appropriate incentives and/ or sanctions are applied.
Professor Adedeji Adekunle
Director General, Nials
11th June, 2015