Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Deal With Betfair to Monitor Betting - Agreed by IOC

The International Olympic Committee yesterday agreed a deal with Betfair to exchange information about irregular betting patterns on Olympic sport.

Coming into effect in time for next month's Games in Beijing, the agreement means the IOC will for the first time be able to request the identities of account holders who bet suspiciously.

As Betfair is the world's largest betting exchange, yesterday's deal is a significant addition to what the IOC already holds with EWS, the early-warning system of betting that is a Fifa subsidiary. But EWS offers no access to private data, unlike the memorandum of understanding signed yesterday with Betfair.

The IOC, having in the past tried to prohibit all gambling activity on Olympic sport, changed tack after discussions with sports-integrity experts such as cricket's anti-corruption commissioner, Lord Condon.

Weighing up the fraud threats posed by result-fixing in sport, the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, set in train plans to tackle corruption during an executive committee meeting last December. Yesterday's decision comes at a time when the IOC has decamped to the capital of a nation whose annual gambling turnover reportedly amounts to £50bn.

All competitors, coaches, officials and journalists who attend the Games must also for the first time sign documents binding them not to bet on Olympic sport. Yesterday's decision provides the IOC with far more detailed powers of inquiry than it has ever had in the past.

Kent get second chance

Kent may yet have the opportunity to play in a Champions League-format Twenty20 competition after being snubbed in an announcement launching a similar Indian, Australian and South African-run event in October. The beaten Twenty20 Cup finalists paid for their use of two Indian Cricket League players, with the champions, Middlesex, yesterday invited to join September's tournament to take place in India.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board is to press ahead with its own plans to hold a tournament in Sharjah the following month. Meetings have taken place at Lord's, the Rose Bowl and in Dubai between the ECB's chief executive, David Collier, and representatives of financial backers and the Abu Dhabi authorities. Talks are at an advanced enough stage for the ECB to have shrugged off reports last night in which the president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council stated permission had not been granted to use the Sharjah stadium in October. It expects that permission to become a formality given that £750m will be at stake over the 10-year duration of the event.

Nike cannot kick Barton

Newcastle's financial and moral dilemma over retaining Joey Barton on a full salary was made all the more difficult by the supposed willingness of rival Premier League clubs to match his current £65,000-a-week wages if he were to become a free agent. This is a clear case of an illegal approach for a contracted player by those clubs, so if Newcastle have evidence of it, surely they will lodge a complaint. But the league has as yet received no request to name and shame and last night a spokesman refused to expand on Tuesday's statement that Barton will stay at the club.

Meanwhile Nike is powerless to prevent Barton from turning out in its boots for Newcastle United's televised Premier League opener against Manchester United at Old Trafford next month. The sportswear company terminated Barton's contract to wear its boots in May after he was jailed. That means the former Manchester City midfielder will no longer receive an estimated £40,000 a year endorsement fee nor will he be entitled to free boots. But despite Nike's moral stance there is nothing to prevent its name being associated with Barton in future as Nike's contract cannot demand players not to wear their products in the event of gross misconduct.

Unable to attend

More of a muddle in the British establishment: invitations to a gala evening of political dignitaries on August 23 at the UK embassy in Beijing, circulated yesterday, told of the attendance of the sports minister, Jerry Sutcliffe. Not only did they misspell the name of the sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, left - he will not even be in China at that time.

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