As a result, many of Australia’s leading sports bodies will meet senior Victorian police and Australian Crime Commission officials today to discuss strategies to combat the problem.
“The growth in gambling in sport has put some of these bodies at greater risk,” police assistant commissioner Graham Ashton said yesterday.
Officials from about 12 elite sports, including AFL, rugby league and union, soccer, netball, tennis and racing codes, will be briefed on Interpol and ACC investigations into gambling syndicates.
It will be part of the first Maintaining Integrity in Sport Forum, to be held at the Australian Institute of Management.
The growing international concern follows the conviction in London of three Pakistani cricketers and a sports agent for corruption in a betting scandal. Former captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aemer were jailed, as was agent Mazhar Majeed. Concerns remain over the spectacular collapse of the Pakistan side that allowed Australia to win a Test in Sydney in January last year.
“We want to discuss ways that we can insulate our sports in Australia from an obvious threat from organised crime,” Mr Ashton said.
He said many of the sports represented at today’s forum had developed self-regulation methods that worked well.
“We want to get together with these bodies to discuss what we can all do to protect the integrity of sport. We will then go away and develop the best law enforcement response to deal with the problem,” he said.
In recent years police have become concerned about close relationships between some of Australia’s most notorious crime figures and well-known sporting identities.
“These sorts of links should be seen as risk flags for sporting bodies,” Mr Ashton said.
Some involved the criminals being fans and ingratiating themselves with their sporting heroes. In other cases, material from phone taps and listening devices has indicated potential corruption.
Several police investigations have revealed crime identities using their personal relationships within sport to glean inside information in order to punt large amounts – usually to launder drug money.
Last month the Australian Crime Commission released a report that said some sporting bodies “lack a comprehensive understanding of the capabilities and impact organised criminal groups can have on their sector”.
The report found that “Australian sport is no longer protected by Australia’s geographic isolation. Developments in technology have eroded national boundaries and exposed Australian sports, athletes, officials and the public to the international marketplace. In turn, Australian sport has been exposed to greater threats from organised criminal groups.”
National law and justice ministers agreed last month to develop match-fixing laws that could carry a maximum 10-year jail term.