Erasmus+ EPOSM project on sporting-related match-fixing successfully concluded

The EU-funded Erasmus+ sport project “Evidence-based Prevention Of Sporting-related Match-fixing” (EPOSM) came to an end with two multiplier events in Lausanne (Switzerland) on November 15, 2021. More than 6000 people in seven European countries took actively part in this successful project that mapped the prevalence of sporting-related match-fixing next to raising awareness around this issue.

Approximately two weeks ago, an important milestone was reached by the EPOSM project. After successfully conducting a large-scale international study on match-fixing in 7 European countries, and subsequently elaborating country specific action plans and workshops against match-fixing, it was time to further disseminate the project results and outputs. 

“After all, the EPOSM project, aims to raise knowledge, awareness, and moral judgement about sporting-related match-fixing among people involved in sport.

 

Moreover, the results of our international study indicate that sporting-related match-fixing seems to occur more. As such, our project has an important message to disseminate”, states EPOSM project manager Stef Van Der Hoeven.

Hence, Panathlon International, one of the EPOSM project partners, hosted two EPOSM multiplier events in Lausanne (Switzerland). More specifically, a “Round Table on EPOSM” and an “International Symposium on EPOSM” took place on November 15, 2021. In total, both events (together) were attended by nearly 100 people (physically or online).

Round Table on EPOSM

During the afternoon, a round table on EPOSM took place at the “Maison Du Sport International” (MSI). After a warm welcome by Pierre Zappelli (International President of Panathlon International), the EPOSM project results, outputs and insights were presented to 29 attendees, who are all involved (in one way or another) in the fight against match-fixing in different countries and organisations. Two project members (i.e., Alma Papic from the Croatian Olympic Committee, and professor Argyro Elisavet Manoli from Loughborough University) joined the round table online due to the Covid-19 regulations in their respective organisations. After the EPOSM presentations and a short coffee break, the actual “Round Table on EPOSM” started.

Vagelis Alexandrakis (NOCs Contact Manager at IOC.OM Unit PMC) moderated and initiated the “Round Table on EPOSM” by explaining the “Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions” and the role of the “Olympic Movement Unit on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions” (OM Unit PMC) in supporting the OM stakeholders with developing relevant actions (rules, awareness-raising, intelligence) in line with the Olympic Movement Code. After his introduction, the floor was given to, Sarah Lacarrière (Integrity Policy Specialist at the Anti Match Fixing Unit of UEFA) who explained how football tries to deal with the matter of sporting-related match-fixing. 

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Photo of the "Round Table on EPOSM,” taken by M. Gaudard / MedusaDesign.

Subsequently, the word was passed on to representatives of the five national platforms present during the round table (i.e., the Dutch, Danish, Ukrainian, Portuguese and Bulgarian national platforms). After all, one of the basic provisions of the Macolin Convention is article 13, which calls to set up a national platform. First, Chiel Warners (Coordinator of the Dutch national platform) explained why it is difficult to make a top priority of sporting-related match-fixing within the national platforms. 

“For law enforcement in general, sporting-related match-fixing incidents are mainly seen as an issue for sports and to be handled by sports. They often say that it is in the DNA of sports, which is true in some cases. For example, in road cycling it used to be very normal to make arrangements between riders and/or teams.

 

Moreover, sporting-related manipulation is not always easy to distinguish from tactical decisions, for instance to create a better position going into a next round. So in general law enforcement is of the opinion that for sporting-related manipulation, but also for some betting-related manipulation, sport is the one to solve it and that law enforcement should only have a role if there are clearly visible criminal elements. That being said, what we do besides trying to cooperate with law enforcement where possible, is focus our attention on what we can influence regarding sporting-related match-fixing which is mainly in the prevention part (raising awareness and education not only among the athletes, but also among coaches, board members, fans, etc.”) and reporting and investigation within sport”, explained Chiel Warners.

Then, Søren Voss (Intelligence and Investigation Manager) and Henrik Ørsted (Legal Manager) revealed how the Danish national platform is actually led by Anti-doping Denmark. They explained how this “umbrella approach” to fight against doping and match-fixing has learned them two important things. 

“First, athletes have to know what happens if they step forward, before an actual case. We see that we don’t get much information from athletes regarding doping or match-fixing. In doping we are more working with sources, and I can see we need to adapt this in match-fixing as well. Both, to get information and evidence, but also to let athletes know what they can expect when they step forward, for example, regarding their anonymity. Second, we have to work fast. We once had a case, where we spoke to an athlete. However, two days passed before an actual interview was set up, and that was way too much time. (S)he was afraid that (s)he might not get a job anymore in another club again, (s)he was really scared about that. So, that is really key, work fast, and let them know what happens”, emphasized Søren Voss.

Additionally, three public authority representatives (i.e., Andriy Chesnokov, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports of Ukraine for European Integration; Carlos Manuel Pereira, Member of the Board of Directors of The Portuguese Institute for Sport and Youth (IPDJ); and Georgi Chapov, Second Secretary for Youth and Sport at the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Bulgaria to the EU) explained how their countries are currently in the process of setting up a national platform and the efforts and challenges that come with it. 

 

After the national platform perspective, Laurence Fischer, French Ambassador for Sport at the Ministry for Europe & Foreign Affairs, gave her view on the role of (elite) athletes in the prevention of integrity breaches. Furthermore, two researchers (i.e., dr. Vidar Stevens from the Mulier Instituut, and Fábio Figueiras from Neuchâtel University) proposed some future steps to examine in the research field of match-fixing. 


Finally, Vagelis Alexandrakis concluded the afternoon and highlighted four key aspects discussed during the round table:

RULES

First and foremost, it is important to highlight the rules. Based on the “Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions,” all sport organisations (International Federations, National Olympic Committees, and National Federations) should make sure that they have rules in place in line with the Olympic Movement Code. Based on this Code, sporting-related match-fixing should be prohibited, and this should be stated clearly in the rules.

NATIONAL PLATFORMS

As we had the pleasure of having many representatives of national platforms with us (some already well established, others still in the process of being set up), the importance of national platforms was also raised. The word “cooperation” really came forward in the discussions about the national platforms. It was highlighted that within a national platform it is important to assess the possibility of having betting-related aspects involved, when they are confronted with an incident of sporting-related match-fixing. Of course, as long as betting-related aspects are excluded, it has to be ensured that there is a disciplinary follow-up by the sporting organisation in relation to disciplinary sanctions and measures. This disciplinary follow-up is also there when there are betting-related aspects (only), as this is part of the rules. Additionally, beyond national cooperation within the national platforms, we also heard the importance of international cooperation. National platforms should exchange information as much as possible. We know that at the level of the Council of Europe there is the network of national platforms, called the Group of Copenhagen. The Group of Copenhagen has the role of the Advisory Committee to the Follow-up Committee of the Macolin Convention.

AWARENESS RAISING & EDUCATION

In addition to clear rules, the importance of awareness raising and education was frequently mentioned during the round table. Most of the panellists were convinced that awareness raising should start at a very young age. Moreover, some of them highlighted that people should know what the consequences are of match-fixing, and when they report a case. Additionally, education was emphasized as something really important, that should be extended to the sporting-related form of competition manipulation.

REPORTING

We heard the importance of reporting mechanisms as well. It is important that sportspersons are encouraged and feel comfortable to report relevant approaches, or anything that comes to their attention. After all, failure to report, should be a breach per se based on the rules. Therefore, from a researcher perspective, it was highlighted that active positive bystander behaviour should be encouraged in the field of sports.

Check the full photo album of the round table on EPOSM here.

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International Symposium on EPOSM

In the evening, an “International Symposium on EPOSM” took place at the Synathlon building of the University of Lausanne. As this symposium tried to reach the wider public, it was organized in a hybrid setting. Despite the current Covid-19-related difficulties, 35 people safely attended the symposium in person and 30 people took part online. After a welcome speech by Pierre Zappelli and a short introduction by UNIL-professor Stefano Caneppele, the EPOSM results and outputs were presented.

Additionally, different perspectives on match-fixing were presented by several EPOSM project members. First, professor Maarten van Bottenburg (Utrecht University) talked about the systematic (i.e., macro-level) challenges to tackle match-fixing. Subsequently, professor Argyro Elisavet Manoli presented the situational (i.e., meso-level) challenges to combat match-fixing, and Severin Moritzer (Play Fair Code) and Simon De Clercq (ICES) highlighted the individual (i.e., micro-level) challenges of match-fixing. After a short Q&A, dr. Bram Constandt (Ghent University) and Paul Standaert (Panathlon International) presented a way to move forward in the prevention of match-fixing. Finally, some general conclusions were formulated by professor Annick Willem (Ghent University). 

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Photo of the “International Symposium on EPOSM,” taken by M. Gaudard / MedusaDesign.

Check the full photo album of the international symposium on EPOSM here.

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EPOSM results

If you would like to know more about the EPOSM results, you can find the presentations here:

About the EPOSM project

Contact

Stef Van Der Hoeven,
EPOSM project manager
stef.vanderhoeven@ugent.be

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The project “Evidence-based Prevention Of Sporting-related Match-fixing” (EPOSM), is a collaborative partnership between academic and non-academic parties, which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The project team consists of:
 

  • Ghent University (BEL – coordinating organisation)

  • Utrecht University (NLD – project partner organisation)

  • The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) (FRA – project partner organisation)

  • Play Fair Code (AUT – project partner organisation)

  • Croatian Olympic Committee (HRV – project partner organisation)

  • Lausanne University (UNIL) (CHE – project partner organisation)

  • Loughborough University (GBR – project partner organisation)

  • Panathlon International (ITA – project partner organisation)

  • International Centre Ethics in Sport (ICES) (BEL – project partner organisation)

  • Counter Sport Corruption Foundation for Sport Integrity (CSCF) (NLD – project partner organisation)

  • Council of Europe (associated partner organisation) 

The EPOSM project has started in January 2020 and takes until December 2021. In a first phase, the EPOSM project examined match-fixing in 7 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In total, 5014 people related to sports participated in an online survey that focused on current and former athletes, coaches, board members, referees, and others involved in several sport disciplines (including football, tennis, basketball, hockey, handball, and cricket). The survey results were reported in “EPOSM result reports” for the respective countries.

In a second phase, tailor-made action plans were elaborated in the seven countries, based on the survey results. Subsequently workshops were organized to raise knowledge, awareness and moral judgement on sporting-related match-fixing among sport actors in the respective countries. More than 1000 people took actively part in the EPOSM workshops.

 

In a third and last phase, the EPOSM project results and outputs are further disseminated via several channels and events, including the two abovementioned multiplier events. Moreover, an online EASM Festival day, called “Exploring the Bright and Dark Sides of Sport,” took place on October 14, 2021. During this online event, the EPOSM results and outputs were disseminated among sport management scholars and practitioners. Additionally, the EPOSM project members are currently working on academic papers, and the book “Understanding match-fixing in sport: Theory and practice”, which will be published in 2022. Furthermore, the EPOSM results and outputs were disseminated throughout the project lifetime via the EPOSM website (www.eposm.net), social media, and newspaper / magazine articles.