Australia's major sporting codes and their athletes will be subject to a "powerful new national anti-corruption watchdog with broad powers" to tackle match-fixing, doping and organized crime in sport, according to Paul Sakkal of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The new regime seeks to address the "growing risk" posed to Australian sport by "unregulated betting, sophisticated doping schemes and corruption." The federal government said that the new body will "help prevent events" such as the Essendon supplements saga and the recent men's cricket scandal from occurring again. Additional powers will be handed to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, which will "eventually be brought within the new commission." A two-year trial will commence for a new sports tribunal, which will investigate cases of anti-doping and be able to compel evidence, in what "could be described as a national sports court." Sports Integrity Australia, the new commission, and the National Sports Tribunal, the new quasi-sports court, will be announced on Tuesday as part of the federal government's response to an inquiry by former police corruption royal commissioner James Wood. Possible contenders to lead the new watchdog are Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna and ASADA CEO David Sharpe (SMH, 2/11).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The equine flu virus that has "brought horse racing to a standstill in Britain" since Wednesday "could have its roots in Ireland" after it was revealed that two stables there have contracted the disease, according to Rob Wright of the LONDON TIMES. Both were "placed under lockdown," but racing has been allowed to continue in Ireland. The trainers concerned have not been named but it is understood that one of those yards has "now been given the all-clear to resume," suggesting that the virus was found in racehorses in Ireland before being discovered in the Cheshire stables of Donald McCain last Wednesday. A statement on the website of the Irish Horseracing Board’s website said, "We are aware that a small number of isolated cases of equine influenza continue to be confirmed in Ireland and that the situation in Britain continues to evolve. Horses will continue to be able to race across the north/south of the island of Ireland. This situation is being closely monitored." A resumption of horse racing in Britain on Wednesday "looks less likely" after four further cases of equine flu were revealed at the Newmarket stables of Simon Crisford on Sunday night (LONDON TIMES, 2/11).
IRISH LOCKDOWN: In London, Chris Cook reported the news from Ireland appears to "illustrate a more pragmatic approach" being taken in Ireland than in Britain. However, Irish officials point to what they say is a "key difference," that there has "not been a case in Ireland of a horse testing positive shortly after mixing with other runners at a racecourse," as has happened in Britain. Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Chief Veterinary Officer Lynn Hillyer said, "These were isolated, discrete events. The cases that we've had have not been racing. The trainers have shut down their yards and they haven't had runners. That's a key difference." Hillyer, a former British Horseracing Authority employee, "praised British officials for acting so promptly" on Wednesday to notify their Irish counterparts that horses at McCain's Cheshire stable tested positive (GUARDIAN, 2/11). In London, Townend & Lambert reported the news of more positive tests "does not definitely mean that racing will not resume on Wednesday." If the BHA is "satisfied" that none of the stables that had runners at Ayr last Wednesday have been affected by the highly-contagious illness, and the cases at Crisford's yard can be contained, it "could yet be enough for the BHA to give the re-start a green light when they conduct their risk analysis." A resumption could even happen while some stables, headed by McCain's Cheshire stable, "remain in lockdown." All horses in the Cleveland stable of trainer Rebecca Menzies, which had thrown up a "suspicious" case, have now been cleared (DAILY MAIL, 2/10).
BHA RELEASE: The BHA announced late Monday a risk-managed return to racing will take place from Wednesday. After consultation with its veterinary committee, the BHA confirmed that racing could resume, but only with strict biosecurity controls in place. The decision was unanimously supported by the committee (BHA).
Player behavior "remains at the top of the agenda" as National Rugby League club execs prepare to meet in Melbourne this Friday, according to Brent Read of THE AUSTRALIAN. That meeting will be the culmination of "what promises to be another hellish week" for the code marked by court appearances and looming sanctions against players and clubs." Players have "already been put on notice" that their bad behavior may "ultimately hit them in the hip pocket" and under the agreement struck between the union and head office nearly 18 months ago, even the "slightest dip" in NRL or club revenue could result in an instant reduction in the salary cap. The term sheet agreed between the NRL and players in Oct. '17 included a clause contemplating "adverse changes" in the game's financial state. The document, sent by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg to Rugby League Players' Association CEO Ian Prendergast, forms the basis of the collective bargaining agreement and "discusses the implications of any drop in revenue and the subsequent impact for player payments." The agreement talks about a range of financial scenarios and mechanisms for revising player payments, the starting point if there is a A$10M ($7M) reduction in NRL revenues in any one year compared with initial forecasts. NRL revenues this year are projected to exceed A$500M ($353M), meaning a 2% dip would bring the clause into effect and jeopardize existing player payments. It is understood sponsors at the NRL and clubs have "raised concerns over the spate of off-field issues" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/12).