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'Do not spoil our game' - Hungary hosts Conference against Sport Manipulation

György Szöllősi, the President of the Hungarian Sport Journalists’ Association speaks during the Conference against Sport Manipulation in Budapest. (Photo: HSJA)
by Zsuzsa Csisztu, AIPS EC Member

BUDAPEST, March 27, 2018 - The Hungarian Competitive Sport Federation recently hosted the International Conference against Sport Manipulation in Hungary, Budapest. In cooperation with the State Secretary for Sport of the Ministry of Human Capacities, the Hungarian Olympic Committee and the Hungarian Sport Journalists Association, the organizers paid close attention to the fact that this is a growing international illegal business, which can only be fought through mutual efforts. As highlighted, these efforts must come from several areas of the sporting world and from the public authorities. Therefore it was important to invite several experts on the topic, from both Hungarian and international backgrounds.

Zsuzsa Csisztu, former Olympic gymnast, vice-president of the Hungarian Sport Journalist Association (HSJA), and EC member of AIPS took the role of the MC, speaking about her personal experience in her sporting career and the real danger of depriving fans of the true joy of sport by any form of manipulation.

Zsuzsa Csisztu, vice-president of the Hungarian Sport Journalist Association (HSJA), and EC member of AIPS. (Photo: HSJA)

An identity crisis of ethics

She also forwarded the request to AIPS President Gianni Merlo to present his thoughts on the matter via Skype conference and deliver a speech representing the viewpoint of the international sports press. Mr. Merlo talked about how much sport has grown but how in doing so has trampled some of its basic principles, the first of these being ethics.

There has been a European Code of Sports Ethics since 1992 but it’s virtually ineffective. However, it’s not only sports ethics that has an identity crisis - so do both civil and professional ethics, for example, what concerns us the most is the lack of ethics in journalism. The word ethics is often unknown in the media of all types because there is no longer a true internal school of correct journalism”, Merlo said.

It is time to recognize, that corruption is trying to take over sport. The scandals which have shaken FIFA, IAAF, IOC with the doping have brought to light terrible situations which we would have never imagined. We have lived alongside characters who have exploited our good faith and our enthusiasm to carry out their dirty business. The corruption in the federations has opened the way to an even more serious evil - match-fixing, the manipulation of the results,” he pointed out.

Reinvesting in culture

As far as the future is concerned, Merlo confirmed that the fight is not over: “It is not easy to get out of this situation, but it can be done. To do it, there is a need to reinvest in culture, the values of the ethics of the beginning need to be brought to the fore. Our response in the face of the current situation must be firm, determined. It’s our right to defend and restore ethics because a sports world that moves towards self-destruction could have very serious social consequences, there are millions of jobs on the line. We have to analyse further the negative phenomena to beat them. And we have to act quickly – concluded the AIPS President.

A legalized fight

Dr. Akos Reinhradt, the Head of Sport managing department of the State Secretary of Sport of the Ministry of Human Capacities, presented the legal structure of the centralized fight against sport manipulation that takes into account the European Union’s recommendations. Dr. Endre Boros is an expert appointed in the topic who has shown the theoretical and the practical interrelation of the topic that is aligned with the principles of the EU.

Technical doping

The legal representative of HUNADO, the Hungarian Anti-Doping Agency, Mr. Gergely Balázs Szabó presented WADA’s current rules concerning 2018.

Alongside with the manipulation of human performance by using all kind of modern performance-enhancing method, such as blood or Gene-doping, the latest difficulties that the International Anti-Doping Community has to face is the technical doping. That means, in technical sports an illegal mechanical, or technical aid manipulates the athletes’ performance which can only be detected mostly by x-raying the tools and equipments being used in the competitions,” he said.

Economic gain

Dr. Peter Zámbó, the Deputy Director-General for Criminal Investigation at the National Tax and Customs Office (NAV), delivered a very interesting viewpoint about sport manipulation as an explorable area of ​​economic crime. The example case he presented was an unveiled crime case stretching over continents and concerning six countries including Hungary, causing billions of euros in money-laundering betting fraud manipulation. Dr. Zámbó welcomed the forward-looking role of the conference and said: “The NAV as an organization involved in investigation and detection of economic crime believes that he most effective way to fight against sport manipulation is to share and to pass on information to the partner organizations, to work in close cooperation, and to be pro-active by exploring the most modern technological solutions of the virtual world.”

How federations are fighting back

The Deputy Security Director of the Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) Mr. Peter Kovács has introduced the effectiveness of the FIFA, UEFA and the MLSZ’s international monitoring activities through a sports manipulation case study. “The world's leading football organization has a basic interest to lead this worldwide battle against match-fixing and FIFA has invested large forces and advanced computing systems to follow the betting events and the detected cases have been sanctioned in sports grounds.” Kovács also confirmed that this system is able to monitor the international leagues with priority attention, but it is also capable of detecting the unusual betting events of the topflight and second-tier national championships worldwide to report any anomalies too.

Global pact

This has to be a global fight against match-fixing, because it is poisoning the true spirit of the game, itself – said Mr. György Szöllősi, the President of the Hungarian Sport Journalists’ Association. The virtual betting games and also the global interest of multinational companies made the so-called local cheating a global corruption problem, where the human factor in several cases, is almost completely hidden by having virtual players inspiring virtual bettings, creating virtual money. The multinational companies’ intention on aggressive product placement can also be a hotbed of fraud. He also underlined the importance of an ethical working manner and shared Mr. Merlo’s opinion about the sport journalists’ responsibility in this battle against any kind of manipulation of sport.

General Secretary of the Hungarian Competitive Sport Association, and the Organiser of the Conference, Mr. Zoltan Bone. (Photo: HSJA)

On behalf of the organizers of the conference, the Secretary General of The Hungarian Competitive Sport Association Mr. Zoltán Boné summarized the day with a positive conclusion, that, despite this being a difficult and ongoing fight against worldwide sport manipulation, with mutual efforts it is not a lost game yet. It was very important that the different organizations taking part in this movement reinforce their awareness in the battle and emphasize the importance of mutual action in the future.

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