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Volume 6 No. 212

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Witnesses who fail to cooperate with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority "will face civil penalties under a new bill set to impact profoundly on Australian sport," according to Samantha Lane of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. A representative for Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy confirmed on Wednesday night that the ''Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority amendment bill 2013'' was introduced in the Australian Parliament within 24 hours of the revelation that Australian Football League side Essendon is "to be probed for players' use of possibly illegal performance-enhancing drugs." Provided the bill is passed, the agency "will have the legal right to compel any person it believes to have information about doping practice, or a specific doping breach, to give evidence in an interview." While the AFL has rules under its anti-doping code that insist relevant parties cooperate with any investigations, the new bill "gives ASADA unprecedented power and control over doping probes" (SMH, 2/7).

EXPANDING INVESTIGATION: In Melbourne, Brad Walter reported an investigation into the use of supplements by Essendon players "is set to be expanded beyond AFL," with National Rugby League clubs "are also likely to face scrutiny." The Bombers called in the ASADA "to look into supplements given to their players but it is understood the investigation will be broadened beyond the AFL club in coming days." It is understood up to 18 Essendon players "are under scrutiny but they may be the tip of the iceberg as some officials believe the use of the supplement is widespread in the AFL and NRL." The Bombers "have sacked sports science guru Steve Dank and stood down" High-Performance Manager Dean Robinson, both of whom worked for Manly. There is "no suggestion of any wrongdoing by either" (THE AGE, 2/7). In Sydney, Smith & Denham reported the national law enforcement authority to combat organised crime "could announce as early as today a fresh attack on criminal activity centred on illegal drugs in sport." The Australian Crime Commission Wednesday night neither confirmed nor denied that "it had recently alerted AFL executives of its plan." While not suggesting the Essendon investigation announced on Tuesday is linked to criminal activity, the AFL "has been made aware of growing police concerns of organised crime infiltrating sport" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/7).

THREE STRIKES: In Sydney, Patrick Smith reported the AFL Players' Association "has backed the three-strike illicit drug rule despite a report in The Australian" Wednesday leading to "widespread speculation about the drug habits of AFL footballers." AFLPA CEO Matt Finnis Wednesday "defended the illicit drug policy that tests players out of competition for recreational drugs." Finnis said, "The association is aware of the need for transparency, and we don't want players placed in awkward situations, but it is absolutely reasonable that a player keep private any illness or any health issue. The decision to step players down is all about their welfare and health" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/7). Also in Sydney, Richard Hinds wrote "the ill-conceived three strikes policy has forced the AFL to deal furtively with both the detection and the consequences of an apparently rising tide of recreational drug use." This, AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has admitted, "means players have been secretly withdrawn from games while in rehabilitation." At the same time, the AFL "is now, very publicly, subjected to the consequences" of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s regime for the detection of performance-enhancing drugs. Something that could, notionally, "wipe out an entire club." Doubtless, the AFL "will feel enfeebled as Essendon is investigated by the proactive and independent officers of ASADA." But the AFL’s poor recent record in administering its own regulations suggests an independent investigation "is the most reliable route to justice" (SMH, 2/7).

Police fear int'l match-fixing syndicates "are grooming Australian sports stars as part of long-term plans to infiltrate local competitions," according to John Silvester of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Organized crime experts have identified A-League football and Big Bash cricket "as likely targets of Asian crime cartels." Intelligence shows that there has been "a massive increase in Asian betting on Australian sporting events," with up to A$40M ($41.2M) held off-shore on one A-League game. Asian syndicates, "both legal and illegal, are estimated to turn over" about A$2B a month. The Victorian Deputy Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said match fixing "is imminent" in Australia. Ashton: "It is a growing area of concern for us. This thing is coming down the highway, and we have to be prepared" (SMH, 2/7).

A SINGAPOREAN REPUTATION: In N.Y., Chun Han Wong noted Singapore police said that they "are helping European authorities investigate an international criminal syndicate" alleged to have fixed football matches around the world from its base in the city-state. A Europol official said that a Singaporean man, Dan Tan Seet Eng, is "a person under investigation in the case." Former FIFA Head of Security Chris Eaton said that Tan, who is in his late 40s, "is thought to be the leader and financier of the syndicate, and has been on investigators' radar for years" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/5). The Singapore Police Force said, "Singapore takes a strong stance against match-fixing and is committed to working with international enforcement agencies to bring down transnational criminal syndicates, including those that involve the acts of Singaporeans overseas, and protect the integrity of the sport" (Singapore STRAITS TIMES, 2/5). REUTERS' John O'Callaghan noted Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said it would be wrong to assume "that only Asian organized crime is responsible for match-fixing in Europe and around the world." He said it would be unfortunate if Singapore's "well-earned anti-crime reputation" suffered from the allegations. Noble added that the city-state "must show it is serious about tackling the problem." Noble: "Until arrests are made in Singapore and until actual names, dates and specific match-fixing details are given, these organized criminals will appear above the law, and Singapore's reputation will continue to suffer." Eaton, who is now a director at Qatar's Int'l Centre for Sport Security, said Singapore was "either being very cautious, very thorough, or they don't' have enough to go on." Eaton: "I don't know why they appear to not be doing anything, but I hope they are. I'm sure they're doing their best to limit embarrassment. Now they're obliged to respond to the mounting international evidence against Singaporean gangs" (REUTERS, 2/6).

AFFECTING ITS NEIGHBORS: REUTERS' Paul Carsten wrote European police "shone a spotlight" on the Southeast Asian region when it announced the Singapore-based syndicate had directed match-fixing for at least 380 football games in Europe alone, while making at least €8M ($10.8M). Eaton said that the number, however, "paled in comparison to the gang's profiteering in Asia." Eaton: "It's infinitesimal compared to what was made in the Asian market. You can probably multiply that by a hundred." The "known cases of match-fixing occurred mostly in the West, but the real profits for the syndicates were in Southeast Asia." The images of people "entering smoke-filled rooms with bags of money and betting slips" are gone. Eaton described today's gambling institutions as most closely resembling "international finance, with its banking, derivative trading and commodities trading." Eaton: "It's all done with algorithms and machines, almost like any commodity house in the U.S. or London. The three largest houses each transact $2B a week -- a hell of a lot of money" (REUTERS, 2/6).

ATHLETES SPEAK OUT: REUTERS' Mark Meadows noted Hungarian side Debrecen goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic "has denied attempting to fix" his club's Champions League match with Liverpool in '09. He said that "his performance should speak for itself." Poleksic said, "Anyone who watched the match would know what people are saying is bull. It was the biggest match of my career, and Liverpool have always been my favourite club. I can't believe what people have said about me. But I don't care, because I know I am clean" (REUTERS, 2/6). Meanwhile, in London, Nick Hoult noted former Pakistani cricketer Salman Butt "has appealed for leniency as he prepares to make a final attempt this week to have his worldwide ban for sport fixing reduced." Butt will appear at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland on Friday to appeal against his 10-year ban, five of which are suspended, handed out by the Int'l Cricket Council in '11. He is being punished "for his part in an arrangement with an undercover reporter to bowl three no-balls in a Lord's Test against England" (TELEGRAPH, 2/6). The AFP noted German parliamentarians have called on FIFA President Sepp Blatter "to act fast." Politician Viola von Cramon said, "Although Sepp Blatter talks about wanting to help in the fight against match manipulation, he doesn't follow his words with actions. FIFA needs to step up the fight against corruption and betting fraud, so they don't lose authority" (AFP, 2/6).

In London, Martin Samuel opined the moment UEFA President Michel Platini "flooded an elite competition with no-hoper contestants, the Champions League became a corruption scandal waiting to happen." Season '09-10 saw the introduction of Platini's "champions route," with five teams from smaller European nations "receiving a golden ticket to the ranks of the elite." At face value, "it seemed a noble idea but, as usual, its creator had not anticipated the flaws." Platini "unthinkingly" constructed a lopsided competition in which some clubs "are little more than makeweights." In the world of extreme gambling, "this is precisely the climate required." The "fiercer the competition, the greater the reward, the less incentive there can be to cheat." No "amount of money could have stopped Chelsea and Bayern Munich going at it hammer and tongs in last season's Champions League final." But "dead rubbers, or doomed missions, are where the fixers work their way in" (DAILY MAIL, 2/5). In Abu Dhabi, UAE, Osman Samiuddin wrote football, "the greatest game in the world regularly pulls off one of the greatest tricks by repeatedly sidestepping deeper questions about its integrity and moving on." It is not as if the revelations of Europol "are the first of their kind." There are "long-standing concerns about football" in parts of East Asia, as well as "any number of leagues" in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Yet, as "inevitably as each new scandal emerges, so it slips off in the self-aggrandising world of football, like some Teflon politician" (THE NATIONAL, 2/5). In London, King & Townend opined even the gambling experts "cannot put hand on heart and confidently reveal the scope of the Asian gambling market -- illegal and legal -- but 'off the scale' would be a safe bet." An insider claimed that "while genuine cheating is rare in connection with the British game, payments for inside information on matches are rife." The knowledge that half a squad has been suffering fro gastroenteritis or that the star striker has a hamstring strain "is gold dust to a bookmaker when there is live, wall-to-wall football being beamed around the globe and feeding a frenzied betting market" (DAILY MAIL, 2/5).

The Hong Kong FA "will appoint new officials as soon as possible after all six members of its disciplinary committee quit on Monday," according to Chan Kin-wa of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. HKFA Vice-Chair Pui Kwan-kay said, "Their decision has affected our image as many of them have served the association for a long time. There should have been more and better communication between the two sides to prevent this from happening, but there is nothing we can do now." The committee, led by its Chair Stephen Wong Kwok-ki, "accused the association's board of directors of interfering in its independence." In their joint letter of resignation, the six said that "the board had forced the committee to accept the presence of a referee instructor at all of its meetings and take his advice before reaching any decisions" (SCMP, 2/6).

The Premier League will vote on Thursday "whether to introduce new financial controls designed to dampen rampant wage inflation," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. All 20 Premier League clubs will vote on two proposals, which require "a two-thirds majority to pass into the rulebook." Following the Premier League's £3B ($4.6B) domestic TV deal, "clubs have been looking for ways to ensure the uplift does not translate directly into increased wages." Arsenal, ManU, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are in strong favor of the first proposal based on UEFA's Financial Fair Play break-even rules. The second proposal is "designed to curb wage inflation" and was originally proposed by  Sunderland Owner Ellis Short, and it "has the backing of clubs including West Ham and Stroke City." The ceiling at which the wage curbs, which will limit total increases in the salary bill to 10% per season, "would come in has been raised" from £40M ($62M) to £52M ($81M)." Another version of the rule "would allow total wage bills to rise by a fixed amount over the next three seasons" (London GUARDIAN 2/6).

FIFA has launched a new reporting mechanism where infringements of the FIFA Code of Ethics, and violations of FIFA's regulatory framework relating to match manipulation can be securely reported and treated with the strictest confidentiality (FIFA). ... FIFA on Tuesday "rejected an appeal by Hungary's football federation (MLSZ) against a ruling requiring Hungary to play its next World Cup qualifier meet behind closed doors." MLSZ said that Hungary "will appeal for redress to the Court of Arbitration for Sports" (XINHUA, 2/5). ... The Board of Control for Cricket in India, bowing to pressure from the Pataudi family, finally "decided to institute an annual lecture after former captain late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi" (IANS, 2/6). ... The BCCI is "likely to shift" all Indian Premier League matches of the Rajasthan Royals out of Jaipur and allot them to Gujarat Cricket Association and Saurashtra Cricket Association. In a meeting on Tuesday, the governing body "decided to give Rajasthan Cricket Association one more day to sort the matter or else face the consequence of missing out on hosting any IPL matches in the sixth edition" (TIMES OF INDIA, 2/6). ... In another effort to revive int'l cricket in Pakistan, the country's cricket board "has decided to construct a five-star hotel within the vicinity of the national stadium in Karachi in a joint venture with the national airlines" (PTI, 2/6).