London (AFP) – Athletics Integrity Unit chairman David Howman has called for a global body to stamp out corruption plaguing world sport, warning that without concerted action “the bad guys will win”.
The former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said a worldwide integrity body should have input from the sports and betting industries, governments and law enforcement agencies.
“The breadth of them (corruption issues) is huge if you look at some of the current problems we have in sport like match manipulation and criminal underworld engagement with ownership of sport,” Howman told a conference in London.
“Be very careful of people who come out with a lot of money and say ‘we will live stream your third-rate football for millions of dollars a year’. Why? Because they want to bet on them.
“How much money is there in the Asian unregulated betting market? $1.5 trillion, and who is using that market? A lot of terrorist groups as it is a really easy way to launder money. We sit back and let it happen.”
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), established in 2017, works independently of the IAAF, the international governing body for athletics, and has been delegated full authority to oversee the sport’s integrity issues.
“Within the sport industry group there has to be a strong component of athletes and there has to be public engagement because the public are the people along with athletes being let down,” said Howman.
“Without a unified approach the bad guys will win.”
– Ombudsman –
The New Zealand lawyer called for a national sporting ombudsman in every country who would be responsible for raising concerns brought to them by athletes with the world integrity body and he said funding should not be a problem.
“I have been described as someone who paints the big picture without the frame,” he said.
“However, you can fund it easily by adding one to two percent to all media rights as an integrity tax, plus a percentage of sponsorship contracts for major events and funding from the betting industry.”
Other funds could come from money collected by law enforcement authorities, for example part of the vast sums recovered in connection with the FIFA scandal in the United States.
“That is not a bad little pot to put into a fund for creating a global integrity authority,” he said.
British marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe told the Sport Resolutions Annual Conference that those who cheat should pay towards cleaning up sport.
“Federations are being banned for their athletes failing doping tests but perhaps they should also pay a fine,” said Radcliffe. “The athletes’ managers should also be fined.
“Much stronger action needs to be taken as it is money which has effectively been stolen from the sport.”
British lawyer Peter Crowther said an independent body would be better than individual federations.
“What we need is a WADA on steroids, which I agree is an analogy not to take much further,” he said.
“What I meant is it is a recognition of the fantastic work WADA did over the years building a reputation for integrity and pursuing justice.
“My serious question is whether we can credibly create so-called independent organisations within those federations, because everything points to abject failure of self-regulation.
“I have no doubts AIU will hunt down those who break principles but others will not be so aggressive in pursuing those working down the corridor from them.”