Government promises jail for sport's betting cheats
Andrew Culf and
Cheating sports stars will face jail sentences of
up to two years in a government crackdown designed to protect the integrity of
sport and eradicate match-fixing and illegal betting.
Sutcliffe (Sports Minister)
Gerry Sutcliffe, the
sports minister, last night expressed concern after Betfair was forced to take
the unprecedented decision to void $7m of bets placed on a tennis match in
Poland amid concerns about irregular betting patterns.
He said the
government would take a "zero-tolerance" approach to cheats while sports
governing bodies warned that betting-related scams could become a bigger threat
to sport than drug doping.
Betfair said it had acted "in the interests of maintaining integrity
and fairness in all our markets" after the price on the world No4, Nikolay
Davydenko, drifted out after he had won the first set against the Argentinian
Martin Vassallo Arguello, ranked 87th, in the Polish Open in Sopot. Davydenko
lost the second set before withdrawing with an injury in the third.
Arguello said yesterday: "I don't think he [Davydenko] has anything to
do with this. I was playing against him but he was playing also with an injury
and that's all I know about it and that's also what I felt in the match. I felt
After the match Davydenko said: "During the match I was
starting to get problems with the whole of my foot and it was very painful . .
. normally I never retire because I like to fight."
A total of $7.3m
(£3.6m) of bets had been placed, more than 10 times the amount of money
normally wagered on a match of this kind. After the Guardian's disclosure
yesterday that Betfair had suspended settlement of bets, the company convened
an emergency meeting before announcing that "following consultation with the
men's professional tour, the ATP, Betfair has decided to void all bets".
Mark Davies, Betfair's managing director, said the betting "seemed to
go wrong and it is quite clear the market was not fair". Betfair said its
systems showed exactly how much had been bet, and by whom, and all information
would be disclosed to the ATP under a memorandum of understanding that had
existed since 2003. A spokesman for the ATP said a "full investigation" was
Sutcliffe said: "Even though incidents of cheating are rare,
they are still deeply concerning and damage the integrity of sport. That's why
we have taken this issue so seriously. When the Gambling Act comes into force
on September 1, it will mark the start of a new zero-tolerance approach to
betting cheats. It will introduce a new two-year jail sentence and give the
Gambling Commission powers over betting fines for the first time, including the
ability to suspend and void bets and a new requirement on bookmakers to share
information with sport."