First UN Report on Global Corruption in Sports Outlines Challenges, Solutions

Illegal sports gambling is worth almost two trillion according to the latest UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released on Thursday. The organization claims that as much as $1.7 trillion is gambled illegally every year, in what is the first Global Report on Corruption in Sport.

The report raises some urgency around the issue of conducting underhand gambling activities and tries to clearly define a problem that was long left to local governments to deal with. Those governments, though, may sometimes be disinclined to act and try to enforce better control, turning it into a UN’s problem.

As the UN report puts it, illegal sports gambling happens at a “staggering scale, manifestation, and complexity of corruption and organized crime in sport at the global, regional, and national levels.” Organized criminal outfits are working internationally, through match-fixers, bribing, or intimidating players and sports bodies staffers.

The report’s authenticity is verified as it took 200 experts from across the world’s sports bodies and integrity elite to produce a comprehensive read of what is currently happening in athletic competitions around the world.

Empty Stadiums Doesn’t Curb Match-Fixers’ Appetite

While the world’s stadiums and arenas remain mostly empty due to COVID-19, the integrity of competitions is increasingly coming under threat. The expansion of legal and illegal sports gambling has motivated criminal groups to continue and pursue ways to enrich themselves at the expense of others, the report argues.

Complex criminal networks have been established to generate profit by getting involved in various operations, including match-fixing, intimidation, abuse of power, illegal betting, and more. Criminal groups, the report contends, are highly sophisticated and they find ways to put consumers at a disadvantage. Seemingly all athletic competitions are susceptible to rigging, from tennis to soccer, to table tennis.

Not all is lost, the report argues, as it also provides guidance and solutions. Tackling match-fixing and fraud in sports may seem like a Herculean task, but it’s one that can be achieved through a concentrated effort and collaboration between different governing and integrity bodies.

The report includes a “playbook” that puts forward policy recommendations that, in turn, may lead to a safer overall sports environment for all. To succeed, criminal justice authorities, policymakers, sports organizations, and data experts would need to get involved to counterweigh the growing threat of rigging competitions and undermining the integrity of competitions.