Corruption in Australian sport

Foreword | Corruption in Australian sport is not a new phenomenon. A series of high-profile cases in Australia, combined with an increasing international focus, has seen a reassessment of Australian sport’s vulnerability to illegal activities such as match-fixing, use of inside information for betting purposes and the use of performance and image-enhancing drugs. This has led to the development and endorsement of national policies on match-fixing and doping, the establishment of sport integrity units, inclusion of specialist intelligence units in law enforcement and the creation of new match-fixing offences.

Yet the actual extent of corruption in Australian sport remains unclear. In particular, does it exist more in the form of a threat rather than an intrinsic or widespread problem? This paper examines some of the events that have affected the integrity of Australian sport between 2009–13 to describe the way in which corruption has manifested, the environment that has engendered the corrupt behaviour and the extent to which these incidents were primarily local events involving local actors. It also proposes situational crime prevention techniques that may assist in framing and responding to corruption in Australian sport.

Adam Tomison


The association between corruption and sport has a long history (see Maennig 2005 for a review). Various commentators who have examined sport and crime have described numerous examples affecting a broad spectrum of sporting codes in which an unfair advantage has been deliberately sought or collusion has occurred to produce a favourable outcome (Boniface et al. 2012; Gorse & Chadwick 2011; Maennig 2005; Transparency International 2009). In recent decades, this behaviour has seemingly become more commonplace. Corruption in sport is now documented in numerous sporting codes—from recognisable contenders (eg football (soccer), tennis, cricket, thoroughbred and greyhound racing, basketball and baseball) to less obvious targets, such as snooker and badminton. It involves a range of offenders who may work cooperatively and is not just confined to ‘grassroots’ participants (ie players, coaches, referees and judges; Boniface et al. 2012) but extending to intermediaries (eg agents), club and federation officials, and organised criminal entities. Further, it affects the way sport is played, managed and promoted, including:

  • how matches or races are contested;
  • the measures taken to enhance (or lessen) individual or team performance;
  • player transfers;
  • management of clubs and sporting federations;
  • election to governing bodies;
  • the acquisition of sponsorship, media and marketing rights; and
  • bids to host large sporting events (Bures 2008).

While Australian sport is not immune to corruption, any past discussion has largely focused on individual, highly publicised cases and the broader implications of these.

Using examples of substantiated and alleged cases of corruption in Australian sport that occurred during the five year period 2009–13, the aim of this paper is to examine the nature of these events, the environment in which the corrupt behaviour manifested and the extent to which these were primarily local events involving local actors. It also considers contemporary legislative, policy and related responses to corruption risks in Australian sport and uses these and other proposed measures to demonstrate the utility of situational crime prevention techniques in stemming future incidences of corruption.

What is corruption in the context of sport?

The term corruption describes a suite of behaviours that habitually defies universal definitional capture and categorisation. The absence of a universally accepted definition is particularly evident in the context of sport. Corruption in sport is often confined to the act of match-fixing, defined by Maennig (2005: 189) as:

…the form of behaviour by athletes who refrain from achieving the levels of performance normally required in the sport in question to win the competition and instead intentionally permit others to win, or behaviour by sporting officials who consciously perform their allocated tasks in a manner in variance with the objectives and moral values of the relevant club, association, competitive sports in general and/or society at large.

An alternate definition proposed by Boniface et al. (2012: 6) establishes corruption within the business of betting:

…any manipulation or attempted manipulation of a result or aspect of a game with the aim of enrichment on the sports betting market.

There is differing opinion as to whether doping or the use of performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) constitutes corruption. Maennig (2005: 189, 217) acknowledges that doping and corruption (in the context of match-fixing) have similar causes but argues that the former should not be conceptually merged with the latter as the intended effects—to ‘superperform’ and ‘malperform’ respectively—are distinct. Gorse and Chadwick (2011), by contrast, do consider doping as a form of corruption. They define corruption in sport as:

…any illegal, immoral or unethical activity that attempts to deliberately distort the result of a sporting contest for the personal material gain of one or more parties involved in that activity (Gorse & Chadwick 2010: np).

Four sub-categories of corrupt behaviour comprise Gorse and Chadwick’s classification of corruption:

  • match-fixing (betting related); that is, where ‘results are manipulated to secure financial reward through betting operators for those involved’ (Gorse & Chadwick 2011: 6)
  • match-fixing (non-betting related) ie ‘those cases where results are fixed to ensure a match…over a rival or influencing the actions of officials to ensure victory for one party’ (Gorse & Chadwick 2011: 6);
  • doping; and
  • inside information, or the (mis)use of information to determine betting patterns.

Gorse and Chadwick (2011) used this scheme to estimate the prevalence of corruption in international sport. From their analysis of 2,089 proven cases of corruption from the period 2000–10, they determined that doping was overwhelmingly the most common form of corruption (95.6% of cases). Match-fixing comprised less than three percent of cases and the use of inside information around two percent of cases.

A topography of corruption in Australian sport

While a diversity of sports are played in Australia, the predominant codes are, in levels of participation and public interest– Australian Rules Football, rugby league, rugby union, soccer (or ‘football’), cricket, netball, swimming, tennis, motor sports, cycling and the ‘races’—thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. Almost all of the listed sporting codes have been the subject of controversy in the 2009–13 period considered here and most of these have been affected by allegations of corruption.

The following synopsis describes a select group of substantiated or (currently) alleged cases of corruption and otherwise unethical behaviour affecting Australian sport in the five year period from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2013. These do not represent the full range of cases, in volume or manifestation that occurred during this time period but were purposefully selected to:

  • demonstrate some of the more serious cases of corruption affecting Australian sport;
  • illustrate the spectrum of behaviours characterising these incidents and the sports they affected; and
  • highlight where corruption could be described as entrenched in specific Australian sporting codes and industries.

The cases are categorised according to Gorse and Chadwick’s (2011) classification, with the qualification that not all cases are an exact fit and potentially encapsulate different facets of corruption—specifically match-fixing and doping.

Match-fixing (betting related)


Victorian Premier League (Southern Stars FC)

The most prominent case of match-fixing in Australia to date was reported in September 2013 and involved players and staff engaged with the Southern Stars FC, a football club in the second-tier Victorian Premier League. Sportradar, the internet betting integrity monitoring agent, detected irregular betting patterns associated with at least five Southern Stars games, which were characterised by ‘unusually poor play’ by some of the players (Six charged over soccer match-fixing scandal. The Australian, 16 September.; Crawford & Butler 2013).

Victoria Police subsequently charged six people with match-fixing offences, including the coach, four players (all of whom were from the United Kingdom) and a Malaysian national. The latter acted as liaison between the coach and players and a betting syndicate based in Hungary and Malaysia. The syndicate is reported to have made an estimated $2m on the five thrown games played between 21 July and 13 September 2013 (Crawford & Butler 2013).

On 25 October 2013, the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) suspended the coach and four players for breaches of the FFA’s National Code of Conduct (Southern Stars players and coach banned by FFA following criminal charges for alleged match-fixing. ABC News Online, 25 October. The four players all subsequently pleaded guilty to three or four match-fixing charges and were convicted and fined between $1,200 and $3,000 each (Footballer rigged matches because of ‘slave-like existence’, court hears. The Guardian, 22 September; Portelli 2013). The coach was given a four month suspended custodial sentence and a fine of $3,000 (Cresswell 2014). Poor salaries were the motivating factor for the players’ involvement; the coach also cited he participated in the fix to ensure the club ‘could pay their players’.

The Malaysian national pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome. In 2014, he received a custodial sentence of three years, with two years suspended (Baxendale 2014).

Rugby league

National Rugby League (Ryan Tandy and others)

Ryan Tandy, a player in the National Rugby League (NRL) team the Canterbury Bulldogs, was found guilty in October 2011 of ‘dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception’ through spot-fixing an August 2010 game between Canterbury and the North Queensland Cowboys. The fix referred to a play Tandy made early into the game with the intention of awarding a potential penalty to the Cowboys (Davies 2011). The TAB detected a ‘betting plunge’ on the game where 95 percent of bets placed were on the first scoring play to be a penalty goal from the Cowboys. Tandy was fined $4,000 and placed on a 12 month good behaviour bond (Prichard 2012). He was later dismissed from the Bulldogs.

Harness racing

Australian harness racing (New South Wales)

In 2011, Harness Racing New South Wales commenced investigations into allegations by an insider of corruption in the NSW harness racing industry. The corruption centred on stewards receiving bribes from licensed individuals to not ‘swab’ (ie drug test) specified horses (Reilly & Roots 2011; Roots 2013a). The matter was referred to the NSW Police who laid charges against five men—two stewards, two trainers and a driver—using the state’s new match-fixing laws. All but one pleaded guilty to offences of either corruptly receiving or giving or offering a benefit.

In 2013, one of the stewards was given a custodial sentence of three years (with a non-parole period of 18 months) and the trainer a 30 month custodial sentence. The second trainer and the driver received community service orders. Harness Racing New South Wales has also sanctioned the accused with periods of disqualification and have charged up to eight additional persons under Australian Harness Racing Rules for their involvement (Roots 2013b).

Greyhound racing

NSW Greyhound racing industry

New allegations of systemic doping of greyhounds with substances including cocaine, EPO, amphetamines, caffeine, anabolic steroids and Viagra were raised in connection with the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry in 2012 and 2013 (O’Brien 2012a; Rubinsztein-Dunlop 2013). The industry had already been the subject of previous inquiries, including a 2000 investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, which found corrupt conduct related to swabbing irregularities against a chief steward and five other individuals (ICAC 2000).

The most recent allegations also referred to swabbing irregularities where swabs went missing or the results were not released until a considerable time after the race was held. It was alleged that the collusion involved not just stewards and trainers but also, according to a whistleblower on the veterinary advisory committee, veterinarians and laboratory staff who falsified test results (Rubinsztein-Dunlop 2013). There have also been claims of organised criminal involvement, notably by outlaw motorcycle gangs, who were engaged in the breeding and selling of dogs, and the deliberate fixing of races by putting in dogs who were known not to be good performers (O’Brien 2012b).

Match-fixing (non-betting related)

Australian Rules football

Australian Football League (Melbourne Football Club)

The Australia Football League’s (AFL) Integrity Unit investigated the Melbourne Demons in 2012 regarding allegations of deliberately losing games (ie ‘tanking’) in the 2009 football season. The allegations first surfaced during an interview with an ex-player (and supported by other personnel) that one of the officials eventually sanctioned by the AFL had suggested during a club meeting of the ‘perils of winning more than four games that year’ (Wilson 2013: np). It was suspected that tanking was proposed to promote the Demons chances of receiving priority in the following year’s draft pick (Wilson 2012). Clubs that win less than five games in a season are eligible for priority draft pick. The allegations emerged from statements made by club officials and players suggesting matches were being played in such a way to ensure a loss (Wilson 2012).

While the investigation concluded there was no evidence of any tanking having occurred or of management directing players to tank, the AFL found the coach and the general manager of football operations guilty of ‘acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the competition’ (AFL 2013a). Little context was given in the final report from the AFL as to what this act constituted but was presumed (by the media) to allude to the alleged statements made at the club meeting by the two officials investigated (Wilson 2013). Both were suspended and the club was fined $500,000. The club’s general manager was relieved of his duties as manager of club development in October 2013.


Australian Rules football and rugby league

Australian Football League and National Rugby League

In February 2013, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) released the findings of a 12 month co-investigation with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) into the use of PIEDs by professional athletes in Australia and the involvement of serious and organised crime in its distribution. The focus of the investigation was ‘two major sporting codes in Australia’ (ACC 2013a: 5), later identified as the AFL and NRL (People speaking out about sports doping: Clare. ABC News Online, 10 February., but the findings also included reference to intelligence gathered from other sporting codes. The investigation described ‘widespread use’ (ACC 2013a: 7) of PIEDs, specifically peptides and hormones, among players. Most of these substances are prohibited under the S1 or S2 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and all but one listed under Schedule 7A or 8 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations (Cth). The regime of administering the prohibited substances was, in some cases, identified as having occurred at the instigation or with the complicity of club officials, including coaches, sports scientists, high performance and other support staff. The use of peptides and hormones in a number of the identified clubs amounted to ‘team-based doping’ and

…linked to a culture in some professional sports in Australia of administering untested and experimental substances to athletes in the hope they will provide an advantage (ACC 2013a: 8).

Australian Rules football

Australian Football League (Essendon Football Club)

One club that became the focus of attention around systemic doping regimes immediately following the release of the ACC/ASADA findings was the Essendon Football Club. A ‘sports science program’ that operated at the club in 2012 allegedly involved the frequent administration of undefined supplements, including a ‘supplement’ banned by WADA, to Essendon players (McKenzie & Baker 2013a). The program was overseen by the club’s high-performance coach and a sports scientist hired by the club as part of the program. However, other officials—notably the coach, assistant coach, football manager and club doctor—were also alleged to have been, at the very least, aware that supplements were being administered to players (Essendon Bombers out of 2013 AFL finals as James Hird accepts 12-month suspension. ABC News Online, 23 September.; Baker & McKenzie 2013a).

At the behest of the club, ASADA began an investigation of the program in early 2013; an interim report was delivered in August 2013. The club also commissioned an independent inquiry. The resultant report—the ‘Switkowski report’—was delivered in May 2013 and criticised the culture at the club, which allowed such a program to both develop and persist, despite concerns raised by several club officials (Switkowski 2013).

The AFL sanctioned three club officials for ‘conduct likely to bring the game into disrepute or prejudice the interests of the AFL’, with 12 and six month suspensions handed to the coach and football manager respectively and a $30,000 fine to the assistant coach (AFL 2013b:np). The Essendon Football Club was fined $2m (the largest fine recorded for any sporting club in Australia), deemed ineligible to play in the 2013 finals season and disqualified from first and second draft rounds for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

In June 2014, ASADA issued 34 ‘show cause’ notices to 34 past and present Essendon players regarding their alleged use of a peptide banned by WADA, as part of the 2012 supplements scheme. The Essendon Football Club and its coach at the time of the scheme launched a subsequent federal court challenge regarding the lawfulness of the ASADA–AFL investigation into the club (Essendon mounts Federal Court challenge to doping notices issued to 34 past players. ABC Online, 14 June. In September 2014, the court ruled the investigation was lawful, with the reinstatement of amended show cause notices, contingent at time of writing on whether an appeal to the ruling would be initiated.

Use of inside information for betting purposes

Thoroughbred racing

Mr F, Mr A and NSW Police officers

The NSW Police Integrity Commission commenced an inquiry in 2013 into possible NSW Police involvement in the operation of sham gambling accounts with a known gambling identity Mr F. Mr F has been accused on a number of occasions of obtaining inside information to lay bets (McKenzie & Baker 2013b). Records obtained by BetFair suggested a collusive relationship between Mr F and a Victorian-based jockey, who may have been providing information about races he was unlikely to win. This allegation was based on sizeable bets being placed on specific horses not to place (McKenzie & Baker 2013b).

The NSW Police Integrity Commission inquiry, which was ongoing at the time of writing, centred on the involvement of two NSW Police officers in the recruitment of up to 17 colleagues to act as fronts (or ‘bowlers’) for betting activities undertaken by Mr F and another well-known high-stakes gambler (Mr A). Both Mr F and Mr A are banned from using a number of large online betting agencies. Personal information from the 17 police officers was used to set up a series of betting accounts for Mr F and Mr A’s benefit; some of the personal information was given directly to the two (McClymont 2013).

It is worth noting here that many of the Australian cases used by Gorse and Chadwick (2011) in their examination of the prevalence of corruption in sport centred on the misuse of inside information by jockeys and AFL players to bet on races and matches respectively.

Risks to Australian sport

A number of risk factors are identified as increasing the opportunity for corruption in sport. These include:

  • the ‘closed environment’ in which athletes and sporting officials operate;
  • differential responses to what is perceived as illegal;
  • negligible pay and lack of financial security, particularly among second and lower-tier players and officials; and
  • the link between sport and making money; crucially, the increased options available for betting and wagering (eg betting on defeats, specific plays) and the ascendancy of online gambling (Anderson 2011; Boniface et al. 2012; Forrest, McHale & McAuley 2008; Misra, Anderson & Saunders 2013).

In their discussion on preserving the integrity of Australian sport against crime and corruption, Misra et al. (2013: 141) also identified the ‘evolving sophistication of the betting market’ as a critical risk factor. In their list of risk factors, they additionally referred to the vulnerability of specific competitors and referees, the vulnerability of specific sports (such as those that are routinely heavily betted on, where the game is ‘episodic’ and can be manipulated by an individual competitor and those where the outcome is not of particular importance) and limitations in the structure and application of regulatory control.

Certainly these factors have played a role in influencing or facilitating a number of the cases described above. For example, the minimal salary offered by the Victorian Premier League was likely to be a motivating factor for participation in the alleged match-fixing scheme involving the Southern Stars players and coach, and the combination of a tight network with a strong gambling culture provided the setting for the Tandy spot-fix. However, other environmental conditions are also arguably relevant.

One of the themes that emerged from the cases outlined above is the absence of clearly defined guidelines and practices to prevent and detect corruption (and see Anderson 2011). At the club or code level, codes of conduct and integrity oversight were underdeveloped or inconsistent and management structures disorganised. For example, the Switkowski (2013) report to the Essendon supplements case highlighted a lack of probity and due diligence in the selection and recruitment of club staff (in particular, contractors), poor administrative compliance (in this case, record keeping on the administration of supplements), inadequate internal controls and general failure to confirm whether instructions were acted upon. The ACC (2013a) also noted the risk attached to codes of conduct that do not cover all potential personnel attached to a sporting body, with contractors and consultants a notable omission, and the inconsistent application of integrity oversight across and within codes. Indeed, integrity oversight was assessed as particularly problematic due to the insular environment sport inhabits and the propensity to recruit and recycle from within the code.

Inconsistent responses to corruption in sport might also be considered a risk factor. Inconsistency might come in the form of inadequate monitoring and irregularity in the investigation of suspected corruption and standard application of minor sanctions. Maennig (2005) describes the net utility of corrupt behaviour as balanced between the utility of ‘successful’ corruption and of punishment, dependent on the probability of the act being detected. In Australia, oversight and the comprehensiveness of investigatory powers have been criticised and tellingly by persons in such roles. For example, the Integrity Auditor for the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry, David Landa, resigned from his position in 2012, claiming the oversight model for the industry was a ‘fraud on the public’, which left the designated authority with little or no independence and rudimentary powers to observe the functions of the role (O’Brien 2012a: np). Further, changes to the industry’s legal status resulted in it falling out of the purview of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (Humphries 2013).

Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner expressed a similar sentiment in the handing down of a 2013 inquiry report into race-fixing in the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry. Although concluding that race-fixing was not a ‘systemic issue’ in the state, Commissioner Perna significantly noted that the current investigative powers of the Racing Integrity Commissioner were ‘inadequate to address current and emerging needs’ regarding race-fixing allegations in Victoria (ORIC 2013: 9). Current powers rendered the Commissioner:

unable to undertake investigations which compel the production of information or documents; require the appearance of persons; administer a sworn oath; or compel the answering of questions (ORIC 2013: 9).

Hence, the final report’s findings were based predominantly on information volunteered by respondents.

Also of relevance is the current status of information-sharing arrangements between parties with a collective interest in stemming corruption in sport. In 2013, the Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine (also Victoria’s Racing Minister), Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton and the then Chief Executive Officer of the ACC, John Lawler made specific calls to relax Commonwealth laws that restrict law enforcement from sharing information sourced from telephone intercepts with other concerned agencies (Baker & McKenzie 2013b; McKenzie & Baker 2013a). State and territory laws also limit what information can be disclosed to sport regulatory and integrity bodies by law enforcement. It was reported that these restrictions have prevented regulatory and integrity bodies from obtaining potentially critical information on race-fixing and doping allegations (Baker & McKenzie 2013b). In a move to improve these arrangements, the ACC signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2013 with the Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner to facilitate collaboration and information-sharing between the two agencies (ACC 2013b), and is in consultation to implement the same with Western Australian and Tasmanian racing bodies (Australian Crime Commission to collaborate on corruption with Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner. ABC News Online, 13 November.

Another relevant vulnerability is an apparent culture of corrupt behaviour that may be described as more identifiable with specific sporting codes. While recent inquiries into the Victorian and Western Australian thoroughbred racing industries did not confirm widespread corruption (ORIC 2013; but see We have evidence of corruption in racing: Police. SBS News Online, 26 August., this industry, as well as the harness and greyhound racing industries, have historically been identified (at least anecdotally) as hotspots for corrupt activity. There are likely to be multiple reasons to account for this, notably that racing and wagering are ‘mutually interdependent’ operations and hence wide open to the temptation to manipulate results. Other factors, however, may be equally relevant and certainly featured in the alleged and substantiated cases affecting various state racing industries. These include:

  • the use of an easily controlled competitor (ie indiscriminate doping of animals);
  • easily manipulated processes (eg drugs testing and ‘swabbing’ balls);
  • historically lax oversight; and
  • strong, often familial interconnectedness, that promotes discussion and subsequent tolerance of unethical behaviour.

Protections in place

Sustained international focus on corruption in sport, combined with a reassessment of the risks to Australian sport has seen the introduction of a range of protections by both government and national sporting bodies. These comprise the:

  • endorsement of national polices on match-fixing and sports doping;
  • establishment of sport integrity units both at the national level and by individual sporting codes;
  • inclusion of specialist intelligence units in law enforcement agencies; and
  • creation of relevant criminal offences in state and territory legislation.

Match-fixing and sports doping policies

The National Policy on Match-Fixing in Sport was endorsed by Australian sports ministers on 10 June 2011. Match-fixing is defined in the policy as:

…the manipulation of an outcome or contingency by competitors, teams, sports agents, support staff, referees and officials and venue staff…(Sports Ministers of Australia 2011a: 2)

and includes conduct comprising the

…deliberate fixing of the result, or of an occurrence of a result, or of a points spread; deliberate underperformance; withdrawal (tanking); deliberate misapplication of the rules of contest; interference with play or playing surfaces (by venue staff); and abuse of insider information to support a bet placed by any of the above or placed by a gambler who has recruited such people to manipulate an outcome or contingency (Sports Ministers of Australia 2011a: 2).

Among the aims of the policy is the promotion of information-sharing arrangements between Commonwealth and state/territory governments, law enforcement, sporting bodies and betting operators, and a consistency in methods of response and the development of sports-based codes of conduct.

The National Anti-Doping Framework was updated and endorsed by sports ministers on 11 February 2011 (Sports Ministers of Australia 2011b). This framework is based on four principles that seek to promote cooperation between the Commonwealth and state/territory tiers of government, provide advocacy and education consistent with international policies, facilitate investigation and ensure the consistent imposition of sanctions as specified in the World-Anti Doping Code.

Sport integrity units

The Commonwealth Government established the National Integrity of Sport Unit (NISU) in 2012. The NISU has a broad range of coordination, monitoring, compliance auditing and advisory roles with respect to:

  • anti-doping legislation and policy;
  • the development of integrity strategies and frameworks to prevent and respond to doping and match-fixing, and
  • the promotion of information-sharing arrangements between relevant bodies.

It is also mandated to introduce whistleblowing instruments to facilitate disclosure of information on corrupt practices. An announced expansion of the NISU’s role saw the recruitment in 2013 of specialist investigators from Commonwealth and state/territory law enforcement (Hooper 2013).

The NISU joins existing or similarly recently established Integrity Units in Australia’s major sporting codes (such as the AFL, NRL, Australian Rugby Union, Cricket Australia and Netball Australia); many developed in response to the findings of the ACC report or independent inquiries. The AFL’s Competition Integrity Department was established in 2008 and was the first such unit adopted by a sporting body in Australia. Its expansion following the ACC report has been accompanied by other measures including mandatory reporting of incidents of doping and whistleblowing policies (Walsh 2013).

Additional to these are codes of conduct or rules of engagement founded by sporting codes and articulated in private contracts between players and their club/sporting body. These establish standards of behaviour and the sanctions that may be applied where behaviour does not meet stipulated principles of conduct. Codes of conduct and contracts, in particular, have been used as a primary sanctioning mechanism for sports such as the AFL and NRL (see for example Bicknell 2005; Davies 2011; Paterson 2009) and arguably act as a first line of defence (and means of deterrence) against inducement to engage in corrupt behaviour.

Law enforcement

Just three specialist sports intelligence units exist in national, state and territory law enforcement. Victoria Police operates the sole specialist intelligence unit investigating sport and corruption. The Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit was established in February 2013 (Napthine 2013) and operates within Victoria Police’s State Intelligence Division. In New South Wales, the Casino and Racing Investigation Unit was formed as part of NSW Police’s Firearms and Organised Crime Squad to investigate race-fixing and links to organised crime in thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. The Australian Federal Police are also playing a more formal role in such investigations.

Match-fixing offences

Match-fixing offences have been created in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, with Tasmania planning to introduce similar legislation. These laws criminalise engaging, facilitating and/or concealing conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome on a sport or racing event and the use of corrupt conduct or inside information for betting purposes. Victorian legislation differs to other relevant jurisdictions by referring to the use of corrupt conduct but not inside information. The maximum penalty for these offences is 10 years (7 years in the Northern Territory). The use of corrupt conduct or inside information incurs a maximum penalty of two years.

Intervention points for preventative action

Clearly embedded within international and national responses to stem corruption in sport is the crucial function of preventative action. For example, INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport Program lists prevention, along with partnerships, information, coordination and proactivity (ie PICPP), as one of the five core principles in its approach to safeguard integrity in sport. Similarly, the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) promotes and works with clients to develop and establish corruption prevention tools. Much of this and other international employment of preventative strategies is described and delivered primarily in the form of awareness raising, education and training (of players, sports officials, management, governing and regulatory bodies, and law enforcement, as well as the broader community by, for example, the media), combined with improvements to the reach and impact of the regulatory environment.

In his outline on the menace of corruption in international sport, however, the Director of Sport Integrity at the ICSS raised the inadequacy of ‘proposed solutions [that] only address[ed] part of the problem’ as one of three factors that consolidated the resilience of corruption in international sport (Eaton 2013: np).

Table 1 Situational sport corruption prevention techniques
Technique Application
Increase the effort Target harden/control access Introduce multiple person oversight/sign-off on access to and release of match-relevant information (eg drug swab results)
Randomise assignment of stewards and other authorities officiating at races/games
Strengthen due diligence on identity information used to establish online betting accounts
Increase the risks Extend guardianship Establish or improve protocols for the recruitment and vetting of players, referees/umpires, club officials and contracted specialist staff/consultants
Improve partnerships between key stakeholders—sports bodies and regulators, betting operators and law enforcement/other public authorities
Initiate or strengthen information-sharing arrangements between key stakeholders and options to respond
Assist natural surveillance Establish avenues and protections for potential whistleblowers
Strengthen formal surveillance Establish club-level, sporting code and national sport integrity units to provide both oversight and scrutiny, and promote accountability
Establish a national entity to monitor wagering and sports betting
Reduce the rewards Remove target Strengthen contractual obligations that prevent players and officials from betting on own matches/races
Disrupt markets Limit the sums of money or number of bets that can be laid for a specific event/time period
Promote the use of regulated/monitored onshore betting operators and legal book- makers
Deny benefits Consistently apply penalties (in the form of suspensions, bans, club fines and/or criminal sanctions) for wrongdoing
Remove excuses Set rules Implement and extend codes of conduct and integrity guidelines to all personnel involved in the promotion, management and participation in professional sport
Include moral clauses and related, disciplinary rules in player, officials and management contracts
Alert conscience Disseminate awareness raising education and training to broad group of relevant stakeholders
Encourage media to monitor and demonstrate ‘greater transparency in coverage of sport corruption’

Note: Structure based on Table 15.1 in Ede, Homel & Prenzler 2002

Specifically, these solutions did ‘not address core structural and jurisdictional weaknesses that allowed [corruption] to manifest’ (Eaton 2013: np, emphasis added). While Eaton did not elaborate as to what these structural weaknesses comprised, it is possible to interpret and respond to this statement by applying situational crime prevention theory. A key part of such a response is to examine the environment that is conducive to sport-related corruption and identify the characteristics of that environment to determine where prevention actions could be applied to deny or reduce the opportunity for corrupt behaviour. Some of these environmental elements were described in the previous section on risk factors.

Situational crime prevention acts to prevent or reduce opportunities for crime from occurring through measures that make ‘crime more difficult and risky, or less rewarding and excusable’ (Clarke 1997: 4). Responding to corruption using situational crime prevention tenets has been explored, for example, in the context of police corruption (Ede, Homel & Prenzler 2002), environmental crime-related corruption (Graycar & Felson 2010) and public sector corruption (Rowe et al. 2013; Sidebottom 2010).

Crime scripts analysis is a practical and informative tool adopted in these studies to understand the ‘sequential steps and associated decision points’ (Sidebottom 2010: 9) made by an offender(s) in the performance of a criminal event and on which preventative intervention can be applied. The number of corruption examples compiled for this study are, however, too few for such analysis and the level of detail (largely drawn from media reports and not chronologically detailed case studies) is not necessarily sufficient to properly map the sequence of events. Nonetheless, the themes described in the section on risks to Australian sport provide some context as to how these events transpired.

Listed in Table 1 are examples of current and potential approaches that may be used to adjust effort, risk, reward and excuse. Due to the context-specificity of corruption incidents, it was determined for the purposes of this paper that the techniques selected illustrate potential points of disruption applicable to one form of corruption ie match-fixing (betting-related; see Table 1). Further examination of the application of situation crime prevention would ideally test-case individual sporting codes. This would not just allow the preparation of a more expansive inventory of situational crime prevention techniques but identify the broad applicability of these to different manifestations of sport-based corruption.

Note that while applications have been assigned to specific purposes, some of these are not mutually exclusive and may, for example, be equally relevant to more than one technique.

The techniques listed in Table 1 act to:

  • constrain methods by which corruption is facilitated;
  • increase the likelihood of detection;
  • disabuse participants from gain through corrupt behaviour; and
  • deter opportunity to ignore principles of behaviour and conduct.

These include measures that:

  • contain ease of access to online betting accounts, presiding officials (eg stewards) and match-determining information;
  • broaden and consolidate relationships between relevant entities to ensure responses are targeted and united;
  • implement a formal layer of oversight and accountability in the form of integrity units;
  • generate a protected method for reporting wrongdoing (eg whistleblower policies);
  • limit the reward that can be obtained from betting activities for both sportspersons and punters;
  • ensure wrongdoing is met with appropriate penalties; and
  • establish and disseminate codes of conduct.

Some of the prevention actions listed in Table 1 have already been initiated or are being considered, although some may ultimately prove to be impractical (or meet industry resistance). While some are universally applicable (such as the establishment of integrity units), others are more pertinent to specific sporting codes (such as the randomised assignment of stewards and their access to result-determining information).

A significant obstruction, however, in responding to corruption in sport is the ‘exponential growth’ of sports betting (Eaton 2013: np). Sports betting monitoring systems have progressed markedly since the early 2000s, typified by the Early Warning System adopted by FIFA and SportRadar, which monitors and analyses betting patterns, with the purpose of detecting irregular and suspicious activity (McCarthy 2013). The Early Warning System and SportRadar’s betting monitoring service are founded on contractual information-sharing arrangements and act in real time to allow for relatively rapid intervention.

While the impact of such services has clearly been a positive one in combating irregular and illegal betting activity, the displacement of wagering and betting to ‘the margins of the industry’, particularly with the advent of illegal or unregulated online and often offshore operations, creates further complexity for nations such as Australia. A report from the ICSS and the Sorbonne describes the issues connected to sports betting, including the huge increase in betting operators (some of which are located in tax havens), the aforementioned expansion of betting options and increased returns, the often inadequacy of regulatory response and the emergence of a new model of professional bettor who has adopted more sophisticated means of avoiding detection (University 1 Paris Panthéon Sorbonne & ICSS 2014). Responding to this requires ‘huge resources’ (Misra, Anderson & Saunders 2013: 145) and potentially novel preventative approaches.

The utility of situational crime prevention is that it enables both flexibility and specificity in response. However, in advocating for such a response, the utility of multiple interventions targeting Australian sport need to be considered against the potentially considerable costs attached to maintaining such interventions. At present and despite predictions from established commentators that Australian sport will be consumed by corruption in the near future (Declan Hill warns Australian sporting bodies of match-fixing threat. ABC News Online, 13 May., the scale of corrupt activity is still unconfirmed. Warning signs from events occurring locally and overseas have justified the implementation of some of the more overarching measures (such as integrity units and codes of conduct) but the extent to which a fuller complement of measures is necessary requires a more finely tuned examination of the size and manifestation of the issue as it affects individual sports.


The examples of alleged or confirmed corruption described here as affecting Australian sport in the five years to 2013 are too few to permit any form of rigorous analysis but these known incidents suggest that for the most part, corruption has been predominantly homegrown, involving local interests. Some of the cases, particularly in the racing industries, are typified by opportunities for collusion borne from community interconnectedness, processes that are open to misuse and compromised transparency. Others demonstrate the temptation that arises as sport and betting become progressively more intertwined, particularly given the increasing ease of placing wagers as a result of the introduction and uptake of online gambling, and the increasingly novel betting options being added to the wagering catalogue.

Most Australian sporting codes are deemed to be ‘relatively clean’ (We have evidence of corruption in racing: Police. SBS News Online, 26 August. It is accepted that there is clearly some risk, although the precise magnitude of this risk is unclear. It is also assumed that most sports in Australia are unlikely to be lucrative enough to generate organised international attention, although the majority of known match-fixing cases involving minor divisions in other parts of the world (and now here in Australia) may mean this contention is incorrect.

The extent to which corruption in Australian sport becomes a transnational phenomenon remains to be discovered. Law enforcement and sporting bodies have nominated match-fixing as the ‘biggest risk’ to Australian sport and have warned of the inevitable infiltration of international syndicates into Australian sport and Australian-hosted sporting events (eg the 2015 Cricket World Cup) (Australian Crime Commission to collaborate on corruption with Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner. ABC News Online, 13 November.; Drill 2013; ICC clampdown on corruption ahead of 2015. Aljazeera, 30 July.; Silvester 2013). That inevitability of infiltration may arise because of the opportunistic nature of sophisticated criminal entities or as illegal betting collectives see Australian sport as an increasingly viable venture. It may also arise if there is an assessment that the regulatory, integrity and law enforcement lens is not as sharply focused as it could be on local sporting codes.

Australia has countered corruption in sport with a suite of responses that provide a critical mix of accountability, validity and responsibility. As these measures are relatively new, a systematic evaluation of their effect in countering corruption has yet to be undertaken. The different manifestations of corruption affecting Australian sport and the underlying elements that fostered the corruption, however, may necessitate a degree of flexibility in the evolution of these interventions and future protective factors. This flexibility may come in the form of a broad-spectrum protective framework that can be used to select and combine techniques relevant to the sporting code in question and that deal with the target and method of corruption, define standards of engagement (regarding recruitment, conduct and use of betting operators), promote consistent application of penalties and encourage avenues for disclosure and information sharing. In further shaping such a framework, the cost of implementation must be weighed against ultimate necessity. This in itself will be dependent on further analysis of genuine versus perceived risk of corruption in Australian sport.


All URLs correct at October 2014

About the author

Samantha Bricknell is the Research Manager of the Violence and Exploitation Research Program at the AIC.