Why is Canadian Sport Not Taking Match Manipulation Seriously?

April 23, 2020

By Jeremy Luke, Senior Director, Sport Integrity, CCES

Sport competitions in Canada and around the world have been cancelled, suspended or postponed as we strive to stop the spread of COVID-19. While the Canadian sport community focuses on managing our businesses through the challenging circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, one side effect of no competitions is that match manipulation related to gambling in sport cannot take place. Consequently, athletes are temporarily protected from the dangers that match manipulation poses to their health and safety. However, when competitions begin again, so too will match manipulation and the threat it poses to the integrity of sport and the safety of athletes.

One year ago, the Canadian Centre Ethics in Sport (CCES) and McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS) hosted the first national symposium to address match manipulation and gambling in sport. Many participants described match manipulation as a tsunami on its way to Canada from Europe, and they felt it was long overdue for Canadian sport leaders to examine the issue and its impact on the safety of Canadian athletes. 

Symposium participants included renowned global experts who shared with the Canadian sport community the extent to which match manipulation and gambling in sport is occurring in Canada and around the world, best practice strategies to mitigate the risk of this issue and a discussion around what Canada needs to do now to protect its athletes from this threat. With one year having passed, let’s take stock of some developments: 

  • On October 2, 2019, CCES and MGSS published the White Paper on Match Manipulation & Gambling in Sport outlining a number of critical actions that should be undertaken in Canada.
  • In the United States, individual states continue to open up the gambling market with 17 states now allowing single sport betting
  • The Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, known as the Macolin Convention, continues to gather momentum. Thirty-eight countries have signed the convention and six have ratified the convention.
  • Countries including Australia and Finland continue to take action to develop national sport integrity organizations to fight match manipulation, including governmental support and specific legislative initiatives. 
  • International Olympic Committee continues to implement and enforce its code on match manipulation, as do many international federations.
  • In Canada, on February 25, 2020, a private Members' bill was introduced into the House of Commons to amend the criminal code to allow for single event sports betting in Canada. Should this bill pass, it will be imperative that it also includes comprehensive approaches to mitigate the risks to athletes around match manipulation.

Unfortunately, there continues to be a dearth of interest and activity within Canadian sport to deal with this issue in an effective way. No one disputes that match manipulation can seriously affect the integrity of sport. Despite the known risk to the safety of our athletes, the best practices that are available to model, an international governmental convention (that is open for ratification to all countries around the world) that many countries have endorsed, Canadian sport continues to be taking a “wait and see” approach. 

During the symposium, opinions were strongly expressed that it may take a significant sport scandal in Canada, similar to that of the 1988 doping scandal, to act as an impetus for serious action in this area. For the sake of the safety of Canadian athletes, and the integrity of our sport system, let’s hope this isn’t the case.