MELBOURNE, March 18 (Reuters) - Australia is closing legislative loopholes to fight sports-related corruption but needs to allow police to share more information with sports administrators, former International Cricket Council boss Malcolm Speed has said.
Speed, ICC chief executive from 2001-08, now heads the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS), an advocacy group representing the governing bodies of top Australian sports including cricket, rugby and soccer.
Australia has been on the front foot drafting legislation to fight betting-related corruption, and convicted two British footballers in Victoria state in December using new legislative powers.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA extended a lifetime ban globally on the players on Monday after they were banned in Australia for seeking to corrupt outcomes in Victoria’s state-level competition.
Speed welcomed a move by Australia’s Queensland state announced this week to introduce legislation targeted at betting-related crime in sports, but said bureaucracy was slowing the fight against corruption.
“It’d be great if police forces had increased capacity to share information with sporting bodies about suspicious activity,” Speed told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday.
“The police forces are restrained by legislation in some states from providing that information. It might be that police forces see a player who is not committing a criminal offence but is associating with known criminals.
“They’re limited in their ability to pass that information to sporting bodies.
“And the sporting bodies, particularly the AFL (Australian Football League), have been pushing for that wider power for some time.”
The AFL, governing body of the popular indigenous football code Australian Rules, has been wary of players associating with criminal figures after an explosive report last year found links between professional sports and organised crime.
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report alleged criminal figures were also involved in the supply of banned performance-enhancing drugs among players.
No convictions have been recorded as a result of a comprehensive probe sparked by the report, which was slammed as a witchhunt by athletes and administrators alike, but Speed said it had served its purpose.
“I think the politicians overcooked the pudding at the time but each of the sports has treated that (report) as a very stern reminder that they need to do what they can to prevent the influence of international matchfixers,” he said.
“The Victorian Premier League case is a good example of that,” he said, referring to the match-fixing scandal in Victorian soccer.
“It’s gamblers in a foreign country using a Victorian event of which there is very little betting in Australia to corrupt an outcome.
“Given the timing of the ACC report, and later the same year we have the first known instance of an international matchfixer operating in Australia, I think that’s very timely and all of the sports have taken serious notice of that.”
Queensland state, home to Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds and a number of top professional sports franchises, will join three of Australia’s six states in introducing legislation targeting betting-related corruption in sports.
Speed urged Western Australia and Tasmania states to commit to the same.
“Western Australia state that their existing legislation, their general fraud legislation which is not specific to sports betting, covers the situation,” said Speed, a former barrister.
“I don’t believe that’s the case.
“We don’t want to see a situation where a matchfixer or corrupter can come to Australia and commit an offence in one state or territory and do the same act in another state and not commit an offence.
“We don’t want to see forum shopping where matchfixers come into a particular state because the legislation is more favourable to them.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford