Review into integrity in Australian sport highlights serious threats and makes recommendations

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In August 2017, Prime Minister Turnbull commissioned The Review of Australia’s Sports Integrity Arrangements, to be conducted by an independent panel led by the Honourable James Wood AO QC and supported by Mr David Howman CNZM and Mr Ray Murrihy (Wood Review). The Wood Review was commissioned in response to the growing global threat to the integrity of sport.

A year later on 1 August 2018, the panel published their findings in a 276 page report (Report), representing the most extensive review of Australia's sport integrity measures ever conducted. The Report makes 52 recommendations for reform.

Serious and emerging threats require a national approach

In response to the Report, the Minister for Sport, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said the Wood Review "acknowledges Australia’s position as a world leader in sports integrity; however, identifies serious and emerging threats that require a national approach".

According to the Report, corruption infects "athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, match officials and others subject to contractual obligations requiring compliance with relevant policies, and in addition other outsiders such as venue staff, wagering service providers, wagerers, unaccredited sports scientists, and player agents".

Couched as an ancillary to Sport Australia's National Sport Plan - Sport 2030 (National Plan), which was also launched on 1 August 2018, the Wood Review embraces the holistic approach highlighted in the National Plan.

Crime risks in Australian sport

One of the major integrity threats the Report identifies resides in the international sphere, where "there has been a huge growth in sports wagering,' and more 'particularly in Asia, which because of its similar time zone, makes wagering on Australian sports convenient".

The Report identifies the 'sub-elite' sporting echelons as particularly attractive avenues for organised crime to engage in money laundering. This identifies that it is not just major sporting bodies or events at risk, but arguably more so, lower level amateur or semi-professional competitions that may not have the resources available to tackle or effectively regulate integrity issues.

Recommendations from the Report

Alive to the internationalisation of sporting threats, the Report embraces an international approach to combat such threats. Two of the recommendations to emerge from the Report are the creation of a National Platform for the regulation of sports wagering in Australia with connections to its overseas counterparts (National Platform) and a commitment to the 2014 Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competition (Malcolin Convention).

According to the Report, the Malcolin Convention provides "an additional solid foundation of Constitutional authority to legislate a suite of measures at the national level," which reinforces "Australia’s commitment to a global response to the transnational threats of competition manipulation in sport".

Establishing an integrity commission

A significant recommendation in the Wood Review is the establishment of a 'National Sports Integrity Commission' (Commission). It is proposed to establish a single, centralised entity empowered with the "responsibility of ensuring the delivery of a coordinated response to current and future threats across the entire sports integrity continuum". The Report recommends the Commission "be established to fulfil this function and that it takes on all responsibilities and functions of the National Platform".

In line with the National Plan, the Commission would liaise with, and coordinate, multiple sectors and parties. The Commission is poised to "provide a single point of contact for athletes, sporting organisations, waging service providers and others, in relation to sports integrity matters, including the provision of advice and assistance in ensuring their compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code and other requirements, and incorporating/consolidating the work of other organisations or strategies such as Play by the Rules and the Good Sports Program".

Bolstering the Commission with a National Sports Tribunal

Moreover, the Report recommends bolstering the Commission's centralised function with a 'National Sports Tribunal' (Tribunal) to unify the fragmented and economically discriminate enforcement measures currently in effect. The Tribunal would have three divisions: Anti-Doping, General and Appeals.

To address the expense, inefficiency and complexity of current sport wagering platforms and regulation, the Report also recommends the establishment of a 'Sports Wagering Scheme' (Scheme).

The harmonisation of criminal laws

The Report reflects on the concerning disparities between the laws of the states and territories, particularly because "the conduct of those involved can cross domestic and even international boundaries". Consequently, the Report recommends criminal laws are harmonised across states and territories and that match-fixing offences, in particular, are incorporated within the federal Criminal Code Act. The Report recommends that offence provisions be given transnational reach, and penalties are "calibrated so as to enliven telecommunication interception and surveillance powers". Further, more streamlined anti-doping measures are also recommended.

Considerations for Australian sporting organisations

Sporting organisations should consider the Wood Review and keep up to date with future developments, including the implementation of the Report's recommendations (if any), as they may play a major role in developing and changing the integrity landscape of sport in Australia. Contact leader of our Sport, Leisure & Tourism sector, Amelia Lynch, or any member of our team if you have any questions about the Wood Review or the National Sport Plan.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.