Friday, December 05, 2008
Int'l sports bodies call for EU to act on online betting and integrity

Over 20 representatives of international sport from the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC, including the IFHA, met with key European decision-makers in Brussels today to call for much stronger protection of the integrity of sport and a fair financial return from sports betting to be incorporated in an influential European Parliament Report by Christel Schaldemose MEP, on the integrity of online gambling in the European Union.

Online sports betting is a phenomenon which has exploded across the EU in the last 5 years, with the rapid growth in multiple new betting products and the possibility to bet on losing outcomes. The increase in irregular betting activities represents a major cross-border threat for sports bodies, public authorities and for the European consumer.

SROC members today called on the European Parliament, Member States and the Commission to address these challenges and to take this agenda forward through proactive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.

SROC emphasised that the recognition of a clear “competition organiser’s right” would be a very positive development for sport, and fully support French sports organisations in their campaign at national level to promote sport’s integrity and secure a fair financial return for competition organisers. France, currently holder of the EU Presidency, is in the process of reforming its national betting regulation.

SROC members stressed that the controlled opening which the French government has announced offers a historic opportunity to recognise the “competition organiser’s right” and to establish a best practice model for other countries.

Jean-François Vilotte, Director General of the French Tennis Federation, told the assembled audience, “The recognition of a competition organiser’s right is the best model to preserve integrity and to ensure sustainable financing of sport. In the same way as for the fight against doping, the intervention of public authorities is crucial.”

The integrity of sporting events and public trust in them must be preserved, as must the fundamental belief that all athletes are competing to win. Sports competition organisers should be represented in any regulatory authority which is created, and closely associated with the development of the sports betting market. SROC members also believe that betting operators must contribute to a sustainable, workable and financed framework to preserve the integrity of sports competitions and to protect them against any form of betting corruption.

Moreover, as sports competition organisers own the rights to their events, legislative initiatives should confirm that commercial exploitation through sports betting can only be undertaken with their consent and with a fair financial return to the sports movement for reinvestment in sports development initiatives. According to the solidarity principle between professional and amateur sport, the whole sports movement would benefit from this additional funding.

Notes for Editors The Sport Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), created two years ago, brings together over 40 major international and national sporting organisations. SROC was represented today by basketball, cricket, football, horseracing, rugby and tennis.

The purpose of SROC is to enable the sharing of ideas and information and to prepare and present common positions on major issues for sport.

SROC seeks proper recognition of the value of sport from Governments across the world, and effective protection for their rights under law.

The issues of greatest concern to SROC currently are the piracy of sport rights and the deregulation of online sports betting in various European countries following the infringement proceedings launched by the European Commission.

For further information, please contact Oliver Weingarten