‘Sports integrity’ a worry for Europe’s governing bodies

By Will Wilson
Harlequins winger Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to simulate an injury

Harlequins winger Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to simulate an injury

A recent surge in the number of sporting scandals making the headlines is threatening sport’s development and is, quite rightly, a cause for concern within the major sporting bodies, writes Will Wilson.

The quality of sport that we watch is getting better. Consider the evidence: the recent Federer v Nadal finals in Paris and London — surely amongst the greatest tennis matches ever played; Sachin Tendulkar recently achieving a feat many thought would never come, with a double-century in one-day cricket; the Olympian feats of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt; and Tiger Woods — if we can ignore the extra-curricular – clearly a genius who has dragged his entire sport to a new level of physical and technical prowess.

However, the technological, financial and medical advances that have made all of this possible also have their downsides. Incidents of doping, match-fixing, corruption and other problems blight the sporting world on a worryingly regular basis.

This is causing worried muttering within governments, sporting bodies and private sector partners across the world, most notably in Europe. Mutterings that are now being assigned a collective label: “sports integrity”.

‘Sports integrity’ is essentially everything that threatens the perception that sport is a fair competition.

In recent years this would include the spectacle of Nelson Piquet apparently deliberately crashing his Formula 1 car in order to fix a race; officials in eastern European football leagues being bribed by Asian betting syndicates to fix Champions League matches; and the Harlequins rugby team illegally using fake blood capsules to gain an advantage in a crucial match.

This, to put it bluntly, doesn’t reflect well on the game’s governing bodies.

Especially not when mea culpa is often ignored in favour of feigning ignorance or the more recent fashion of blaming — without justification — the European betting industry. It is no surprise that the European Commission have designated fighting doping and match-fixing as two of their priorities to exercise the EU’s new sports policy powers.

In front of the cameras, sport is reaching new highs — this summer’s FIFA World Cup will be a spectacle to remember, and the emergence of Andy Murray could push Federer to even greater feats on grass and hard courts alike. But it is behind the scenes where real work needs to be done in order to ensure that sport does not encounter new lows that undermine its success.

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