The International Olympic Committee (IOC) encouraged countries to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, also known as the Macolin Convention, at the third International Forum for Sports Integrity (IFSI) yesterday (28 October).
“This gathering today reflects the very nature of the IFSI, which is cooperation and partnership,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “We are a community which shares a common goal to protect competitions from manipulation and from related corruption.”
The Forum saw delegates agree to 11 key points of action, the highest-profile of which was urging sports governing bodies ratify the Macolin Convention. These entities must also establish national platforms to fight sporting corruption, as set out by that Convention. This will be supported by the launch of the Sports Investigators Network, a coalition of investigators that have received training from Interpol and the IOC on fighting attempted manipulation.
It said that each sports federation was responsible for protecting its sport and educating participants and officials about integrity, something that should be supported by betting operators. This, it said, should be achieved through communication campaigns using assets such as ambassadors, social media, and online and on-site activations.
To ensure a flow of information, IFSI delegates agreed that reporting mechanisims are vital for governing bodies and governments. These should follow the best pratice guidelines set out in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and IOC's Reporting Mechanisms in Sport: A Practical Guide for Development and Implementation guide.
Furthermore, use of data was seen as key for investigations. This exhange of information is crucial for upholding sporting integrity, which the IFSI argued met the needs for a public interest exception to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations.
However, it also acknowledged that sports organisations have limited powers when it comes to obtaining evidence. As such, it said, there was a need to work closely with law enforcement agencies around the world.
“It is crucial for government agencies and sports organisations to identify and apprehend those responsible for wrongdoing in sport, including competition manipulation,” Ronan O’Laoire, global coordinator for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) global programme for safeguarding sport from corruption and crime, said.
“Having effective reporting mechanisms in place to facilitate this is essential, and we believe that the guide on reporting mechanisms in sport, developed through our partnership with the IOC, sets out a highly effective basis to do just that.”
Bach echoed O'Laoire’s sentiment, stressing the importance of cooperation between investigators and sporting bodies.
“With this network of 200 trained investigators from International and National Federations, National Olympic Committees and sports disciplinary bodies, we can really go to the heart of the problem, which is having access to information as soon as possible and, in some cases, even before the problem occurs,” Bach said.
“Having this investigators’ unit in place will allow us to address issues from the roots,”
The IOC and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish cooperation between the two organisations.
“Corruption in sports is a global criminal phenomenon perpetrated by organised crime groups operating cross-border and often involved in other crimes,” Europol’s deputy executive director, Wil van Gemertm said.
“Working closely together in coalition with key partners like the IOC is crucial in the fight against corruption in sports. Combating sports corruption means not only defending the integrity of sports, but also protecting the public from criminals who cause significant damage to the safety, security and wellbeing of the EU citizens.”
On 2 October, Global Lottery Monitoring System (GLMS) also encouraged countries to back the Macolin Convention, emphasising how it will help with education and prevention activities related to manipulation in sport.
To date Italy, Moldova, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and Ukraine have ratified the Macolin Convention, while a further 32 countries have signed it. While it was first published in 2014, it had to be ratified by at least five states before it could come into force. Since its introduction, however, it has been opposed by Malta, which claims its definition of illegal gambling potentially puts its licensees at risk of prosecution.
The Treaty defines illegal gambling as “any sports betting activity whose type or operator is not allowed under the applicable law of the jurisdiction where the consumer is located”. Malta's concerns ultimately blocked the Council of Europe from signing Macolin on behalf of its 28 member states.