Main Menu
Top of Page
  | Home   | Index   | Info   | This Week   | Poker   | News   | Email

Welcome to the News desk.

Government promises jail for sport's betting cheats 04/08/2007
Andrew Culf and Steve Bierley

Cheating sports stars will face jail sentences of up to two years in a government crackdown designed to protect the integrity of sport and eradicate match-fixing and illegal betting.
Gerry Sutcliffe
Gerry Sutcliffe (Sports Minister)
Mark Davies
Mark Davies (Betfair)

Gerry Sutcliffe, the sports minister, last night expressed concern after Betfair was forced to take the unprecedented decision to void $7m of bets placed on a tennis match in Poland amid concerns about irregular betting patterns.

He said the government would take a "zero-tolerance" approach to cheats while sports governing bodies warned that betting-related scams could become a bigger threat to sport than drug doping.

Betfair said it had acted "in the interests of maintaining integrity and fairness in all our markets" after the price on the world No4, Nikolay Davydenko, drifted out after he had won the first set against the Argentinian Martin Vassallo Arguello, ranked 87th, in the Polish Open in Sopot. Davydenko lost the second set before withdrawing with an injury in the third.

Arguello said yesterday: "I don't think he [Davydenko] has anything to do with this. I was playing against him but he was playing also with an injury and that's all I know about it and that's also what I felt in the match. I felt nothing else."

After the match Davydenko said: "During the match I was starting to get problems with the whole of my foot and it was very painful . . . normally I never retire because I like to fight."

A total of $7.3m (£3.6m) of bets had been placed, more than 10 times the amount of money normally wagered on a match of this kind. After the Guardian's disclosure yesterday that Betfair had suspended settlement of bets, the company convened an emergency meeting before announcing that "following consultation with the men's professional tour, the ATP, Betfair has decided to void all bets".

Mark Davies, Betfair's managing director, said the betting "seemed to go wrong and it is quite clear the market was not fair". Betfair said its systems showed exactly how much had been bet, and by whom, and all information would be disclosed to the ATP under a memorandum of understanding that had existed since 2003. A spokesman for the ATP said a "full investigation" was under way.

Sutcliffe said: "Even though incidents of cheating are rare, they are still deeply concerning and damage the integrity of sport. That's why we have taken this issue so seriously. When the Gambling Act comes into force on September 1, it will mark the start of a new zero-tolerance approach to betting cheats. It will introduce a new two-year jail sentence and give the Gambling Commission powers over betting fines for the first time, including the ability to suspend and void bets and a new requirement on bookmakers to share information with sport."