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Volume 7 No. 149

Leagues and Governing Bodies

England Netball will receive financial backing from Sport England until '21, according to the BBC. The governing body, which agreed to a three-year sponsorship deal with partner Vitality in October, will receive £2.8M ($3.5M) from next year. The National Lottery funding will be used to "support grassroots netball as well as the senior squad," the Vitality Roses. In January, England Netball CEO Joanna Adams said that "she feared for the future" of the national program. She added that this investment will allow the Roses to continue to play full-time, something she describes as "key for their progression and raising the profile of this wonderful sport" (BBC, 12/14).

BANNER NIGHT: In London, Tom Cary reported England Netball's "dramatic last-grasp win" over Australia in the netball final at the Commonwealth Games in April was voted sporting moment of the year. The Roses also claimed the "team of the year" award, beating Europe's Ryder Cup team, the Ireland rugby team and the England football team. According to England Netball, over 130,000 women have taken up the game in the eight months since Helen Housby's "memorable buzzer-beater in the final," which helped England win Commonwealth gold (TELEGRAPH, 12/16).

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle

Rugby Australia is stockpiling a "fighting fund" to "fend off the poachers" and keep young talent in the 15-man game, according to Julian Linden of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Armed with cash from Rugby Australia’s Foundation and wealthy supporters of the game, RA wants to "shore up" its "most exciting young prospects" as part of a new national approach to helping the Wallabies "get back on top of the world." RA CEO Raelene Castle said, "We want to make sure that we secure the best young talent and keep it here so we've had a number of donors step forward and that will allow us to secure the talent that we identify." Castle added that there is no plan to "try and plunder" the National Rugby League ranks, saying that any new funds "would be spent on keeping younger players." She said, "Our schools and youth development systems are doing a great job at identifying, developing and delivering that talent. We just need to make sure that when they get in to the competitive landscape that we're in a situation to secure them" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/17).

The British Horseracing Authority "is preparing to put its weight behind efforts begun in Asia to deal with the increasing problem posed by unregulated betting exchanges," according to Chris Cook of the London GUARDIAN. Huge volumes of money "'are reckoned to flow through a handful of websites that bet on races around the world," including British meetings, "but neither the odds nor sums traded are visible to outsiders and there is no way to establish who is placing the bets," typically staked by agents. Such activity "poses a twin danger to the sport." There is the "obvious integrity threat that comes with a total lack of transparency." But such sites "also undermine the sport’s income, since they make no financial contribution" while taking business from bookmakers who have signed up to give a portion of their profits to racing. Trainers and other industry insiders in Britain "are in the habit of regarding Betfair, Betdaq and other exchanges as an integrity threat," because they allow customers to bet directly against one horse. Unregulated exchanges "pose a much greater threat," BHA Chief Regulatory Officer Brant Dunshea said. Dunshea: "Over the past few years we’ve observed a decrease in the number of issues from the domestically-based exchanges in relation to betting-related corruption issues. And during that time we’ve also seen a quite rapid increase in the activity of unregulated betting platforms in southeast Asia and other parts of the world." Dunshea’s fears "are a restrained version of those expressed by Martin Purbrick, his opposite number" at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, who has warned of a "tsunami of illegal betting" threatening the sport’s viability. Officials in Europe "are increasingly aware that while the threat originates from the Asia-Pacific region, its reach is global" (GUARDIAN, 12/17).

PAYOFF: In London, Rob Davies reported Ladbrokes agreed to pay £1M ($1.26M) to "the victims of a problem gambler who had stolen the money he was using to bet," in return for "a pledge not to inform the industry regulator." The betting firm "showered the gambling addict" with thousands of pounds' worth of gifts over two years -- "including free tickets to football matches and business class flights." The gambler, a British citizen who ran a property business in Dubai, "later admitted to having stolen from his clients in order to fund his high-roller habit," which cost him up to £60,000 in a day (GUARDIAN, 12/17).

COMING CLEAN: The AAP reported a key member of the "Aquanita eight" admitted to administering illegal raceday treatments for trainer Robert Smerdon and other members of a "circle of trust," but denied "doping Melbourne Cup horses." Float driver Greg Nelligan "initially maintained only he and Smerdon were involved in the cheating conspiracy," before implicating the other people banned for their roles in Australia's biggest racing scandal. Nelligan said that he and Smerdon had an agreement that a "top-up" meant administering sodium bicarbonate and Tripart paste to horses on racedays (AAP, 12/17).