The threats associated with the looming surge in sports gambling – especially coupled with financial woes for players, clubs and codes – are among many issues on the radar of Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority boss David Sharpe.
Sharpe has been appointed head of Australia’s new sport integrity organisation, which will officially begin operations on July 1 and oversee a nationwide approach to prevent doping, fixing and corruption.
“Any sport that gets up and running and has a betting market early on is going to be very much high risk,” Sharpe told AAP.
“Organised crime will be looking to exploit that opportunity. The fact the economy has forced sporting organisations to stand staff down around education, welfare and integrity; that’s a great risk.
“Now is when sport is at the biggest risk of exploitation. So we certainly need to be all over that and working with the sports and filling some of the void there … our doors open July 1, but that doesn’t mean we’re not working together now.”
Sharpe is a former Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner and rugby league player, having become the boss of Australia’s anti-doping authority in 2017 after about 30 years in law enforcement.
Establishing Sports Integrity Australia, which Sharpe said would “put a ring around sports and keep organised crime out as best” it can, was a recommendation made to the federal government by an independent review of the growing threats to Australian sport in 2018.
Sharpe suggested his biggest concern was “organised crime’s infiltration of sport and the lack of understanding within sports that it is a major and emerging threat”.
“There is a unanimous desire across the country – from state, territory and federal law enforcement, intelligence agencies, government, national sporting bodies and athletes – to work together and protect sport,” Sharpe said.
“Sports Integrity Australia will be more of a co-ordinated approach. Law enforcement already work closely in sharing intelligence with sporting agencies. This is about coordination of that intelligence, rather than it being sport specific or state specific. It’s critical we all do this together.”