Integrity Investigation recommendations for sporting organisations

April 15, 2019

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin


1 Introduction

Integrity has found itself at the centre of much scrutiny and discussion in sport in recent times, with high profile integrity-related issues including Darren Weir in Horse Racing and ‘Sandpapergate’ in Cricket, which led to one-year suspensions being imposed on Steve Smith, Australian captain, and highly successful batsman David Warner.

Integrity in sport primarily concerns the ability of a sport to uphold positive values and principles which foster a culture of healthy and safe participation, development, fairness, respect, diversity and inclusion.
Integrity concerns that have been highlighted by organisations and Australian government reviews recently as needing further attention and development include doping, illicit drug use, match fixing, member protection, and child protection.

As a result, integrity-related policies that are comprehensively drafted, frequently reviewed, and consistently applied are paramount to the performance of your sporting organisation. Board members and senior management personnel of sporting organisations have an obligation to oversee and appropriately develop the integrity frameworks of their organisations and ought to be proactive in this role.

To that end, this brief report will outline key recommendations relating to integrity that will assist senior management personnel to develop stronger integrity-related frameworks within your sport.

2 Case Studies: Integrity Issues in Sport

Many integrity-related cases have arisen in the last few years, spanning numerous sports and affecting all levels of sport within Australia.

The ability to engage in betting misconduct and match-fixing has risen considerably due the sheer number of betting agencies available and the ease of technology which allows the public to engage in betting misconduct and match-fixing from their phones in a relatively undetected manner.

A recent example involved match-fixing allegations in the National Premier League, soccer, in a match between Dandenong Thunder and Melbourne City. Two men were charged in February 2019 with match-fixing offences following an 18-month investigation.

The police allege that the men attempted to fix a match between Dandenong Thunder and Melbourne City’s under-20 second division team on 19 August 2017. The focus of the investigation was allegedly the conduct of Dandenong Thunder, whose representatives have declined to comment publicly on the matter.

The Victoria Police Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit, Purana Taskforce and Queensland Police Major and Organised Crime Squad, were involved in this investigation.

A Victoria Police spokesperson revealed that a 54-year-old from Essendon North has been charged on summons with engaging in conduct that ‘corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome’ and ‘facilitating conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome’.

Queensland Police have also charged a 52-year-old from the Gold Coast with facilitating match fixing conduct in relation to the same incident.

In certain cases, even the act of possessing a prohibited device is enough to warrant substantial penalties, including disqualification, even where there has been no evidence of match-fixing or cheating. In February 2019, arguably the most successful horse trainer in Australia (and Melbourne Cup winner), Darren Weir (Weir), found himself charged with three counts of possession of an electric apparatus capable of affecting the performance of a horse in a race, and with one count of engaging in conduct prejudicial to the image, interests, or welfare of racing. Weir was found to possess three electronic ‘jiggers’, devices which convey a severe electric shock when pushed against the body of a horse. The shock is administered in conjunction with some other means of handling, so that the horse associates the act of handling with the electric shock. The result is that the horse will put on a burst of additional speed.

The use of electronic jiggers in racing has been banned for a long time by the racing industry in Australia due to the fact that the devices are primarily used to affect the outcome of races; effectively a form of cheating. Now, as the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board noted in its decision, the use of jiggers is an animal welfare concern as well as a cheating and dishonesty concern. Weir was not found guilty of using jiggers on any of his horses or in any races, but in the words of the Board, even ‘possessing devices capable of inflicting such cruelty is a very serious offence and … warrants stern punishment’.

These concerns were compounded by the fact that Weir [is] ‘arguably the most successful trainer in Australia’. That, coupled with the fact that the public became aware of his conduct, meant that Weir’s conduct had the effect of being substantially damaging to the reputation of the racing industry. One of the Board members suggested that Weir should receive a five year ban due to the severe impact his conduct had on the public’s perception of the racing industry, and to act as a deterrent for all licensed persons in the racing industry. The Board also noted that the penalty would need to be sufficiently serious in order to denounce Weir’s conduct. Ultimately, Weir was disqualified from racing for four years. Weir has since been charged with nine offences by police in relation to this matter.

3 Integrity Recommendations for Sporting Organising

Our recent work in the area of integrity has revealed a number of important steps, safeguards and procedures that your organisation should be mindful of when developing integrity policies and conducting integrity-related investigations:

Increase promotion of integrity within your sport to both staff and participants to draw more focus and consideration of integrity-related matters, for both staff and participants. This aims to minimise activities which would lead to investigations or misconduct and promotes a positive culture which in turn discourages cheats from the sport. This can be done through information sessions and distributing material about how to identify and report suspicious behaviour.
Create an Investigation Procedures and Policies Document
• Ensure your organisation has a robust Investigation Procedures Policy to guide the investigative process. This includes creating a Tribunal Hearing and Appeals Policy.
• Ensure your policy contains a mechanism for members to report misconduct or make complaints.
• The policy should set out minimum standards for investigations, such as prescribing mandatory file management systems; a requirement for mandatory investigation plans and interview plans; requiring ‘corroborators’ to be present for interviews and inspections; setting out notice guidelines for investigators, such as requiring a minimum of one week’s notice to be given to a witness before they are interviewed or evidence is collected from them; guidelines for property and evidence inspection, including phone evidence, e-mail evidence, etc.
Set out what matters to investigate. Trends show that there is a tendency to investigate more minor or routine breaches, which inflates ‘conviction’ rates, but alienates some industry participants. Careful consideration should be applied as to what matters to investigate, with a focus on the more serious matters, or investigations into those who are involved in the industry full-time, or elite level athletes, as opposed to casual participants, if a choice must be made based on limited resources.