GAA not ‘immune’ from betting corruption, sports law conference told

Size of organisation and proliferation of online betting increases risk, barrister says

Chief Justice Frank Clarke praised practitioners of sports law in Ireland, saying it was a unique area of law which combined expertise and precedent from many other specialities. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Chief Justice Frank Clarke praised practitioners of sports law in Ireland, saying it was a unique area of law which combined expertise and precedent from many other specialities. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The GAA needs to be vigilant about the risk of betting corruption arising among players, a sports law conference has been told.

“I don’t think any sport is immune,” barrister Susan Ahern told the Sports Law Ireland conference in Dublin on Friday when asked about the prospect of corrupt betting practices spreading through the GAA.

The size of the organisation, coupled with the proliferation of new types of online betting, has increased the risk for sports organisations around the world of players being tempted to take bribes, the conference heard.

“Given the size of the GAA and the amount of players they have, they need to pay attention,” Ms Ahern, a practicing barrister and former general counsel for World Rugby, told the conference. Speaking to The Irish Times at the event, Ms Ahern said all sports were vulnerable at some level to match manipulation or illegal betting.

“The bigger the sport or the more influential it is in a particular territory, the more likely it is to be bet on, the more chances there are it will be subject to issues,” she said. She added that rules needed to be enforced and players needed to be made aware of them.

“It’s wonderful to have rules, but you must enforce them. You need to have a process in place and a system and you need to educate your players and your athletes,” she said.

The Sports Law Ireland conference was organised by the Sports Law Bar Association and British organisation LawInSport.

The conference also heard calls to regulate the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, which has come under scrutiny in Ireland since the 2016 death at a Dublin event of Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho.

Professor Jack Anderson, who is a director of sports law studies at the University of Melbourne, said MMA in Ireland operated in a legal lacuna which, from a regulatory point of view, placed it closest to prize fighting. He said it should be regulated for the good of the sport.

“We need to push on with the regulatory process,” he said, adding that statutory legislation, along the lines of what has been enacted in other jurisdictions, such as Australia should be examined in Ireland. The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association has been working with Sport Ireland on the regulation of the sport.

Speaking at the same event, Chief Justice Frank Clarke praised practitioners of sports law in Ireland, saying it was a unique area of law which combined expertise and precedent from many other specialities such as contract law, competition law and employment law.

“You’re applying it in a different context to the kind of context in which it is normally explored, and that in itself can be very interesting,” he said.