United against Corruption in Sport: Promoting a fairer playing field in South Asia

Vienna, 21 June 2023 – Worldwide, sports serve as a means to foster connections between communities and uphold values such as fair play and respect. However, the ever-growing commercialization of sports, the high stakes involved, and the presence of weak institutional, societal, regulatory, and legislative frameworks, leave the door open for those seeking to exploit them for illicit gain.
South Asia is not immune to these threats. Challenges ranging from competition manipulation and illegal betting to corruption in procurement endanger the integrity of sports and require a collaborative effort among anti-corruption and criminal justice authorities, as well as sports organizations. Indeed, to effectively address these challenges, it is crucial to build a comprehensive understanding of the nature of corruption in sports, as well as the scale and complexity of criminal networks involved.
Offering this, UNODC’s Programme on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption and Economic Crime has been providing training to key stakeholders across 24 countries in the Asia and Pacific region over the past year.
This initiative, which has been delivered under the project “Safeguarding Sport from Corruption: Asia and the Pacific” (2019-2023), generously funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport, and Culture (DG EAC), has aimed to provide officials and sports organizations with the requisite skillset to tackle corruption in sports, with a specific focus on competition manipulation and sporting events in South Asia.
The project concluded with a focused workshop at UNODC’s headquarters in Vienna supported by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), and funded through the generous financial support of the European Union (EU). This gathering brought together over 40 officials from six South Asian countries, facilitating a platform for collaboration and exchange of good practice.
Adam Shamil, President of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Maldives, emphasized the importance of establishing effective cooperative networks between anti-corruption bodies, law enforcement agencies, and sports organizations. “Corruption in sports should not be overlooked,” he stated. “The harmonization between the national laws and international standards should be given a special interest”. Mr. Shamil highlighted that in preparation for the workshop, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Maldives Police Service, the Football Association of Maldives, and the National Olympic Committee gathered to discuss the issues and decide on a joint way forward. “This workshop presented (the Maldives with) an opportunity to begin a national dialogue on this issue. Additionally, the effort will be backed by evidence and decisions and recommendations will be provided. In this regard, the Commission will conduct a study on this thematic area,” he added.
Reflecting on the conclusion of the workshop, Dechen Tshomo, a participant from Bhutan Cricket, expressed, “After attending this workshop, I am better equipped to raise awareness by providing valuable insights and information to officials, coaches and players about the different forms of corruption in sports and the strategies to prevent and address them.” She added, “The knowledge I gained will assist me in identifying and mitigating potential risks in my day-to-day work.”
By taking decisive action to combat corruption, South Asian countries promote fair competition and inspire future generations to participate in sports with honesty and integrity. Through collaboration, awareness, and robust enforcement mechanisms, South Asia can forge a united front against corruption in sport and foster an environment of transparency, accountability, and shared responsibility.