EU match-fixing treaty signed

Fifteen European nations have agreed to sign a treaty that is aimed at fighting the all-too-common problem of match-fixing. (Image: edition.cnn.com)

A new EU match-fixing treaty to be signed by 15 European nations will address a major sports issue that has continued to plague league after league across the globe. Match-fixing is a scourge that hurts fans, sports competitions, and honest gamblers and bookmakers alike.

That’s why combating match-fixers has become such a hot button issue in the world of sports in recent years, with governments and bookmakers teaming up with organizations like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in an attempt to stamp it out.

Now, these 15 nations in Europe have agreed to work together in order to prevent and punish match-fixing around the world. Last Thursday at the Conference of European Ministers of Sport in Switzerland, the nations signed the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, pledging to help promote integrity in sports in their nations.

EU Nations Sign Convention

The signatories include several major European nations. The nations included in the convention were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Switzerland.

By signing the convention, these countries have agreed to increase the flow of information and improve cooperation between national and international bodies, including sports books, leagues and competitions, and governments. Sports betting regulators and operators will be expected to take more steps to combat fraud, while governments are asked to use legislation and other measures to protect the integrity of matches.

“This convention is a major step forward for integrity, ethics and transparency in sport,” said Thorborn Jagland, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General.

The European Commission called the treaty a “new milestone” in the battle against match-fixing. The body played a critical role in helping to bring together the convention over the last two years.

“Match-fixing is a cross-border problem and action at European level is essential if we are to combat this scourge,” said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for sport.

Sports Betting Groups Approve Treaty, With Reservations

Reaction from sports betting organizations was also largely positive. Groups including the European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA) and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) came out in support of the convention, even if they may have had some reservations.

“It is our hope that [the convention] will further set the tone for a more effective cooperation between all stakeholders to eradicate match fixing,” said EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer. “However, we are award that the CJEU [the Court of Justice of the European Union) has rightly been asked to provide its opinion on the compatibility of the definition of ‘illegal sports betting’ with EU law, and consider that the application of at least this provision should be postponed until the CJEU has provided legal clarity.”

RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood said that bookmakers worked hard to ensure that no particular bet types were banned in the convention.

“The regulated betting sector worked hard to explain why measures of this kind would not make any material difference to the integrity of sport,” Hawkswood said. “What we have now is a relatively balanced and workable framework, which rightly seeks to reflect the range of existing national regulatory frameworks rather than replace them.”

The convention was set to come into effect three months after it received at least five signatories, at least three of which were EU Member States. Since that threshold was reached on Thursday, the convention will start on January 1, 2015. Other nations can still be a part of the convention; as the treaty is designed to fight against corruption worldwide, nations do not have to be in Europe to sign on.