England football acts to restrict betting corruption

English footballers were warned yesterday by their players' union leader that insider dealing to make money on the betting markets could wreck their careers as stiffer penalties are introduced to fight the growing gambling culture within the game. Brendon Batson, the Professional Footballers' Association chairman, (pictured left of Sports Minister Richard Caborn) stressed that incidents in the professional game were rare. "Players are very much aware of what they can or cannot do with regards to betting. If you're talking about inside information - privileged information - then they're not supposed to share that.

"Everyone knows Alan Shearer is injured and there's a game coming up on Saturday in which he's not going to play. But if that injury had occurred behind closed doors and it wasn't known to the public, then you have to be careful players are not phoning people up and saying, 'By the way, we're going to have a weakened team because our main striker isn't playing'," he told the Integrity in Sports Betting Summit, reported by William Johnson of The Telegraph.

The initiative comes at a time when Wayne Rooney of English Premier League powerhouse Manchester United, has been the subject of extensive reports on alleged gambling debts of £700,000, but Batson said the Rooney case had not been a catalyst for the plan. "That is a matter for that individual, his club and the players' association in terms of educating younger players in terms of the dangers in general. The dangers are being approached by people who are intent on corrupt practices and also of being too heavily involved in the gambling industry," he said.

At the summit, British Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, unveiled a 10-point anti-corruption sports code. Nine sports have already endorsed the code to help close the net on betting cheats.

"Sports betting has changed dramatically in recent years," the minister said in a statement reported by Kate Holton of Reuters. "Advances in technology and increasing popularity mean there are now more ways to place a bet than ever before. But we can't let a few unscrupulous cheats drag the good name of sport through the mud. That's why I'm pleased that from football to snooker, sport now recognises the importance of working with betting operators and the authorities to crack down on betting cheats."

Under the code, sports bodies must include provisions in their rules and regulations governing the behaviour of their members in relation to betting. Their members will be expected to avoid any conflict of interest. The bodies will be expected to work closely with the police, National Criminal Intelligence Service and the Gambling Commission if corrupt practices are discovered.

Betting on sport has always been popular in Britain, with figures from the National Audit Office in 2005 estimating annual turnover at $95 billion. "However, the nature of betting has changed in the past decade with a move to the internet and phone accounts allowing people to place a bet at any time from any place, not just with bookmakers but also directly with fellow punters," Holton commented.