Analysis: KELVIN SIWALE
IF YOU are a sports lover, you might have heard sentiments like “the referee or adjudicator has been bought, we couldn’t have lost this contest”.
Technically, this means the referee has been bribed to determine the outcome of the contest.
In other cases, especially in the past, if a player on the pitch made a schoolboy mistake which cost the team a game, we would hear the fans say he has been bought by the other team to deliberately hand them the victory. Are these things possible? The answer is yes but with more checks and balances being put in place, it is becoming more difficult!
In view of the aforementioned, we shall take time to look at the law on corruption in relation to sporting events. In case we didn’t know, the law is not silent about corruption in sporting events and we are not only talking about soccer but all sporting events.
Now let’s look at how corruption can happen in sporting events and for what purpose? Firstly, note that bribery always seeks to obtain a favour even where you don’t deserve your much-desired achievement.
Therefore, in a sporting contest, a team, player, coaching staff or even management may be tempted to undertake illicit activities behind the scenes, to predetermine the outcome of a contest. This could be done by engaging and bribing the match officials, especially the referee, who is very key in ensuring fairness.
Bribery comes at play because of desperation by managements or coaching staff to meet their targets so that they are not sacked. Imagine where a coach has been given a deadline and has this game standing between him and his job, the temptation is very high. This could trigger corruption because of desperation for a victory regardless of the form in which his team is.
Section 27(a) (b) of the Anti-Corruption Act number 3 of 2012 criminalises acts of solicitation, acceptance, agreement to accept bribes either for oneself or another person in order to influence the outcome of a sporting event. In the same vein, anyone who offers, gives or agrees to give a bribe as an inducement or reward to influence or for having influenced the run of play or the outcome of a sporting event commits an offence.
These acts happen behind the scenes and are normally difficult to detect, sports administrators are urged to pay particular attention to monitoring and reviewing of match officials’ decisions.
In cases where the officiating is questionable, the concerned match officials must be probed by administrators so as to establish why they made questionable decisions. If found wanting and bribery is apparent, they should be reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission for criminal investigations. This is one of the ways we can prevent corruption in sports.
Further, match officials should report any person that offers, gives or promises to give them a corrupt payment in exchange for a favour. It must be said that such temptations should not be entertained but reported to the ACC or sports administrators so that perpetrators can be dealt with.
Further, bribery also happens during elections to put executives in place. Money may exchange hands in order for some ambitious candidates to ensure they ascend to seats of authority in sports. Every well-meaning sports enthusiast should not tolerate bribes from any candidate in exchange for a vote because by doing so you put wrong people in the executives.
This gives rise to maladministration which eventually manifests on the pitch, hence the call to prevent bribery in sports. The lowest point one can sink is to engage in bribery, there is no justification, whatsoever.
Having said all this, we cannot take away anything from the efforts being put in by sports administrators to ensure transparency and accountability by match and club officials. For instance, matches in competitive soccer leagues are now recorded and may be reviewed in case there are queries, this serves as a deterrence to match officials who may want to purposely make wrong decisions to favour a team that has “taken good care of them”.
Further, stories of money exchanging hands between coaches and players in order for players to be included in the teams, have significantly reduced but we cannot completely rule out such issues.
In closing, all sports players are urged to report any official or coaching staff that solicits for a bribe in exchange for a favour. Similarly, officials should sanction or report anybody who offers them a bribe in exchange for a favour. Let’s us all do it for the love of sports. Corruption can destroy the fun, suspense and unpredictability that comes with sports by predetermining the outcomes. Say no to corruption in sports!
The author is an anti-corruption specialist.