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Fighting the manipulation of sports competitions must be a political priority

Roland Rino Büchel

Council of Europe member States must adopt “relevant laws and sanctions to uphold the integrity of sports competitions against manipulation”, according to PACE‘s Culture Committee. This type of ‘organised crime’ can “only be tackled effectively through a common political commitment and legally binding international co-operation in the fields of information exchange, data protection, law enforcement and criminal justice”.

While highlighting the concrete measures taken by several governments, the committee considers that sport integrity matters “remain generally low on the political agenda”, and deplores that in five years only six member States of the Council of Europe have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions.

With regard to this international legal instrument, the unanimously adopted draft resolution, based on a report prepared by Roland Rino Büchel (Switzerland, ALDE), denounces the attempt by Malta to amend the definition of ‘illegal sports betting’ within the Convention under the provisions of its Article 38 as yet another tactic “to win its cause and to neutralise the existing definition, thereby significantly weakening the system established by the Convention”. According to the adopted text, requesting an amendment would “paralyse the effective implementation of the Convention”.

However, the draft resolution welcomes the fact that to date, 32 national platforms are operational, despite several without a formal framework. Many countries have updated their legislation to comply with the Convention and co-operation through informal networks is active. The text also welcomes the recent conclusion of the meeting of EU Council sports ministers calling on the EU and all its member States to complete their respective ratification processes and accede to the Convention “as soon as possible”. It urges the Union institutions to look for a rapid solution to remove the obstacles preventing EU member States ratifying the Convention so that its Follow-up Committee can start operating with a maximum number of States Parties.

“The time to act is now,” the text concludes, since further delays will “only benefit criminal networks and undermine the values of sport, which will also jeopardise the values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights”. This is particularly dangerous in the context of the current drastic impact of COVID-19 on the financial sustainability of sports, “carrying a high potential risk of further expansion of money laundering, illegal betting and manipulation of sport competitions”.