Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The interactive education programme launched by Spain’s La Liga last season hopes to reach 2,000 players, managers and coaches this season, said Alfredo Lorenzo, the body’s Integrity and Security Director. “Last season, 1,318 players took part in the programme”, Lorenzo told The Sports Integrity Initiative at the Tackling Match Fixing conference in London. “This season, because we are in the last stages of this activity, we hope to reach around 2,000. Why? Because we have included in this system 16 clubs from the women’s first division, and some clubs from the second and third division.”
La Liga’s integrity education programme is different from that operated by other sporting leagues in that it forces coaches, managers and players to physically attend a course, for which they receive a completion certificate. Many other sporting organisations use information sheets or online courses to educate on integrity issues, and it is understood that athletes often do not read such information sheets, and have been known to instruct others to complete online courses.
In match-fixing cases, this allows the accused to claim that they didn’t read the information and were not aware that they were committing an offence. Those who have completed La Liga’s programme have no such defence, as they – and La Liga – have a certificate confirming that they completed an integrity education course.
“My team preferred to do things differently, because as organiser of the competition, we have a responsibility”, explained Lorenzo. “We started to do certifications last season, and it’s important because they have to sign to say that they have taken part in the education. Therefore there’s no way that they can later say they didn’t know that something was forbidden.
“We have to send – to all of the participants in the competition – the same message, because we are the organiser. The way to send the same message to all of them is through a programme organised by the integrity team of La Liga.
“We have to be sure that they’ve received the training. It’s also for the protection of the club, because in some cases, players could do something prohibited on their own. We have a responsibility to protect the club, to say that players have received the information and education programme. They are free to do what they want, but at least they know what is forbidden, what the consequences will be and where they can go if they want to report something.”
Lorenzo also revealed that La Liga provided the information that allowed Spanish police to arrest 32 people for match-fixing. He said that La Liga received information from a whistleblower in February 2017 concerning a match, and it engaged referees and overseas authorities to analyse betting patterns, after which it want to the police in March. La Liga then discovered similarities with betting patterns with two other games and informed the police.
It said that its ongoing investigation has now involved over 20 matches since February 2017, and between 80% and 90% of these have links to the same organisation. The two leaders of the organisation are now in prison. Perhaps La Liga’s education programme and such arrests will serve as a warning that La Liga is taking the issue of match-fixing seriously.
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