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Integrity chief issues eSports warning

UK & international sports | Published:

eSports is the fastest growing sport around the world.

E3 gaming conference

eSports need to become a much harder target for potential corruption, according to integrity commissioner Ian Smith.

During 2017, some 39 significant alerts into possible match-fixing were flagged up by eSports’ Integrity Coalition monitoring system.

Over the first few months of 2018, Smith revealed there had already been an “absolute rash” of “alarming” alerts surrounding a WarCraft 3 league played in China.

With the game accounting for less than one per cent of betting in all of eSports, Smith said it “would be like Lacrosse generating 10 alerts in sport. There is clearly a problem there”.

eSports continues to grow at a rapid pace around the globe, with huge prize money now on offer. The Overwatch League, Smith highlighted, commands a 30million US dollars (£23m) franchise buy-in.

A purpose-built eSports arena has just been opened in Sydney, while several football clubs – including Manchester City and West Ham in the English Premier League – now have their own dedicated eSports player.

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Some of the problems facing the Integrity Coalition, which was founded in 2016, include the number of tournaments run by small operations – as well as some larger ones – where there is no system in place to properly deal with the issues of potential for corruption, and the fact sports gambling is illegal in some regions.

ESIC already offers an online education tool for players, while the organisation’s members, supporters, betting partners and regulators, which includes the UK Gambling Commission, continue to grow.

Smith, who was legal director of the Professional Cricketers’ Association for over a decade, believes only by adopting an umbrella approach across all of the stakeholders for an anti-corruption code can match-fixing be tackled head-on.

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“Firstly, it is about the continuing expansion of the information exchange around suspicious betting, so the more people, particularly betting operators, we can get feeding into that system the better, because the more you cover, then the more likely you are to spot the activity,” Smith told Press Association Sport.

“The main thing is we need insight into the Asian markets, because those are the largest and drive the most activity – and unfortunately by nature of being illegal, they are also the invisible ones.

“The second thing really is around participant education.

“It is a very strong deterrent to a lot of people if they understand what the dangers are, what an approach looks like, what to do if you get one and the likely outcome of the effect on your livelihood – the biggest victims of any sustained match-fixing scandal are the players who lose their living.

“Then with more members of ESIC from the tournament organisers side, the consistency we can have across the board on the eSports spectrum, the more likely we are to succeed in dealing with the problem.

“These are all the things which need going to make eSports a much harder target than it currently is.”

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