Sunday, 30 January 2011

Is Betting Ruining Sport?

As the snooker authorities announce the launch of yet another investigation into betting irregularities surrounding a match played on Friday between Jimmy Michie and Marcus Campbell, once again we are left wondering how much of the sport we watch is a genuine battle of sporting skill and how much is pre-arranged in seedy hotel rooms by those who wish to exploit sport for financial gain.

No evidence that either player is guilty of anything untoward has been presented, and it is only right that they are assumed innocent until evidence to the contrary emerges, if any such evidence exists at all. It is very possible that the increased levels of betting on Marcus Campbell to win the match, that were observed by bookmarkers, were nothing more than coincidental. However, once again the relationship of sport and the financial gains of betting on sport is being put under the microscope.

Snooker is still coming to terms with the scandal of John Higgins suspension from the sport as a result of a meeting that took place with undercover reporters in Ukraine, and his subsequent failure to notify snooker authorities of the approach asking him to engage in illegal activities. Higgins, pictured above, has only just returned from his suspension. Perhaps it is naivety on my part, but I would still like to think that Higgins was guilty of nothing more underhand than a lack of judgement. However, the aim of this article is not to enter the quagmire of examining the rights and wrongs of individual cases.

The question we are addressing is whether betting is ruining sport. Betting is now big business. The opportunities to wager on almost every aspect of any sporting occasion are now greater than ever. The availability of betting websites from the comfort of your own living room has opened the door to far more people now placing bets than when you had to take a trip down to your local bookie. This isn't an issue in itself. If any adult wishes to place a bet on a sporting event then they are free to do so.

As sports fans, all we want to know is that the sport we are watching is a genuine sporting contest. Can we have confidence that our favourite sporting events are honest and above board?

The recent no-ball scandal in cricket certainly left us less than convinced that sport is clean. The investigation is still ongoing, but the accuracy with which reporters were able to predict which balls would be no balls left little room for imagination. The no ball scandal also made it very clear that when instances of players acting in any way that contravenes the spirit and ethics of sport need to be dealt with very harshly. There is no place for anybody in any sport who breaks the confidence of fellow players, the supporters and the game itself. If sports men or women are guilty of manipulating results then they should be banned for life - just as they should be if they manipulated results through drug taking. We have to be able to trust sports men and women as the guardians of the sports we love.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the welfare of sport lies only with sport itself. The gambling industry may very well benefit from sport, but it can no more change the outcome of any event anymore than you or I can. The only people who can alter the result are the participants. Betting cannot ruin sport. Participants who succumb to the temptations of easy money can ruin an event. Left unchecked, they can also ruin a sport - but only if that sport fails to deal with corruption as it arises.

Just as in any walk of life, there will always be those who are willing to break rules for financial gain. Some may slip through the net, but many will be caught. All we can do is trust those tasked with running sport to care of its welfare and deal with the bad apples that come along. We also need to trust those whose endeavours we support. Until such times as they are shown to have broken our confidence then they have our trust. It is a privilege they should not take lightly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm in Australia and virtually every few minutes during a football or cricket match there is somebody or an advertisement pleading with people to bet.. There is even a stadium in Sydney named after a betting company.. Combined with the fairly recent sensation of mind numbing Poker on t.v it is no wonder that I and others are nauseated by this sickening trend.. Even my English football team (Bolton W.) are sponsored by a betting company.. I'd love to ban ALL sports betting .. Sadly the sick and greedy money men won't let this happen.


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