In a move designed to stamp out and prevent the potential spread of corruption in the game, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has introduced strict new guidelines for players and their families regarding betting on matches.
Known as The Anti-Corruption and Betting Regulations, and based on guidelines issued by the International Rugby Board (IRB), the scheme will affect some 2000 professional players, team officials and others associated with the game in New Zealand, all of whom will be required to sign an anti-corruption pledge as part of an intensive education programme of seminars presented by NZR staff.
NZR General Manager Rugby Neil Sorensen said, “We want rugby to remain an honest test of skill and ability. Our sport has a good record, but we can’t take it for granted.”
The regulations are designed to prohibit players, coaches, referees and even players’ families using information not otherwise available to the public to make bets on rugby matches, in New Zealand or internationally, or conspiring in any way to affect the outcome of matches. This move has come in the wake of betting scandals that have engulfed soccer and cricket worldwide over the last few years. “We’ve seen international examples of the damage that corruption can do to sport and we don’t want to see that happen in rugby,” Sorensen said.
Gambling on rugby is, however, a relatively small market compared to other international sports, with about NZD$600 million being gambled annually on matches worldwide.
The scheme is part of the wider NZR integrity programme. which also educates players about the use of performance enhancing drugs, supplements, medicines and alcohol. “As guardians of the game in this country, we have a responsibility to uphold its reputation so this work shows we take any threats to the integrity of the game very seriously,” said Sorensen, “and that’s why we’re reminding people involved in the game about keeping it free of corruption.”
There will be two categories under which players and officials can be charged with breaching the regulations: a Prohibited Wagering Breach and an Anti-Corruption Breach. Anyone found guilty of committing a Prohibited Wagering Breach is liable to a one-year ban, while an Anti-Corruption Breach can attract a ban for life. In the case of the latter, there is also the possibility of criminal charges being brought.
However, the Rugby Players Association, the body representing professional players, believes that attempts to ban players and their families from betting on matches will be too difficult to enforce and suggests that the regulations will not be able to be implemented successfully.