European Sport Needs Cooperation

The fight against match-fixing and international crime in sports has become part of the agenda of international sports policy in the past few years. Unfortunately, the theme has also been topical in Finland this spring, with Asian sports betting crime reaching its tentacles into Finnish football. It is obvious that this issue cannot be solved with national measures alone.

Crucial role of the sports movement

With FIFA, UEFA, and most recently the International Olympic Committee at the helm, the sports movement has taken the first initiative in developing new types of co-operation. International sport-related criminal activity, such as match-fixing, is a global theme. To eradicate it, we need versatile co-operation involving the sports movement, governments and gaming providers. The IOC’s initiative is very positive in this respect.

It would seem natural for the sports movement to take lead in solving the problem.

The current situation reminds me in many ways of the establishment of global anti-doping co-operation and the founding of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) twelve years ago. What is sought now is ways to get different players around the same table to discuss global measures to deal with the matter.

Finland is proud of Europe’s taking an active role in the development of international co-operation. Parties within the Council of Europe are currently discussing measures and assessing the necessity and benefits of international legal instruments to combat match-fixing.

In May, EU Ministers of Sport set up a new expert group to deal with good governance in sport. The Sport Council expects the working group to present concrete proposals by mid-2012.

The schedule is demanding, but rightly so.

However, this matter cannot be solved through sports policy alone. We must also create good international co-operation in the fields of criminal law, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering.

National characteristics of sports do matter

Similar to co-operation in the sport sector in general, co-operation against match-fixing  needs to aim at solutions that are flexible and adaptable to the specific characteristics of sporting cultures in different countries.

In Finland, for example, the sports sector is mainly considered as a civic activity. The Finnish society aims to respect its autonomous nature and tends to guide it by soft means, mainly by setting different kinds of criterias for the governmental funding for sport.  

At the very moment, we are looking into the possibility of setting activities against match-fixing as a criterion for government subsidies to sports organisations. We believe this would be one of the most effective ways to root out match-fixing in the Finnish system.

What kind of a role can governments play in the fight against crime in the global illegal betting market? Defining this will be a tough challenge for international sport policy in the next few years.

Let me assure you that Finland wants to be an active player in this co-operation.  


Harri Syväsalmi