A new coalition between France and the UK is set to deal another blow to those involved in match fixing across Europe. With betting regulations a hot topic on both sides of the Channel, ministers have signed a Declaration of Intention that will see them share information, expertise and resources.
By working together, regulators in France and the UK are hoping to eliminate the threat of illegal betting practices, as well as curb issues such as doping in sport. For the newly appointed UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, the move signals a statement of intent. At the recent UK-France Summit, Hancock said:
"Through the work of UK Anti-Doping, the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit and our Code for Sports Governance, we are ensuring that our sports bodies are more transparent and uphold the highest standards on integrity and governance. We want to share best practice with other nations and this agreement with France underlines how important it is to work in partnership on the threat of corruption."
Since taking up his new position following Prime Minister Theresa May’s January reshuffle, Hancock has faced a number of testing issues. Stepping into the role, the noted horseracing fan who lives near Newmarket was immediately thrust into the UK’s fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) debate.
Taking charge of an official review that started in October 2016, Hancock will now play a major role in the fate of the high street betting terminals. At this stage, no concrete decisions have been made. However, the report is expected to reduce the maximum stakes per round from £100 to £2.
Representatives from the top bookmakers have suggested that such a dramatic change in stakes would lead to massive job losses. The Association of British Bookmakers predicted the following in a recent press release:
"A £2 stake is effectively a ban on FOBTs, would put 21,000 people out of jobs and have huge consequences for sports such as horse and greyhound racing."
With pressure from all sides, Hancock’s time in his new role has been far from comfortable when compared to his predecessors. However, thanks to the new crime-fighting pact between the world powers, along with his counterpart, French Sports Minister Laura Flessel-Colovic, he may have won back some fans.
Corruption in sport has long been an issue for countries in Europe and around the world. High-profile incidents such as the 2006 Italian football scandal, which involved Serie A and Serie B, not only resulted in huge fines and status changes for clubs in Italy, but European football as a whole.
To help ensure that something similar doesn’t happen in the UK, the Football Association (FA) implemented a betting ban in 2014. Applicable to all players, managers, coaches and backroom staff at professional clubs, the rule prevents any form of betting on football matches around the world.
Despite a few cases of players flouting the rules, the policy appears to have helped to stamp out issues of match fixing in the UK. It’s this type of experience and knowledge that organisations in the country will now share with France. Hancock reiterated this at the UK-France Summit:
"Doping and match-fixing scandals have rocked international sport in recent years and it is crucial that we take a global approach, working together to ensure the integrity of sport is upheld."
As the Declaration of Intent moves from an agreement to practical action, the UK and France will be leading the way when it comes to match fixing and unfair practices in sport. In December 2017, the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport published a three-pronged strategy for tackling corruption.
Aiming to cover issues around events and infrastructure, integrity at host cities during major tournaments and improving compliance, the international coalition is hoping to reduce crime across the board.
Although the pact between France and the United Kingdom will operate independently of any global efforts, the move has been welcomed by all, including the Secretary-General of ESSA (sports betting integrity), Khalid Ali, who described it as something that should be commended around the industry and throughout the globe.