Boxing is not one of my favorite sports.
But, as a crime reporter, the historic links with organized crime means I have to pay attention to it.
Sport is the one thing that brings millions of people together so, when you throw in the competitiveness, the lucrative assets – including the athletes themselves – and the universal reach then, boom, you have the ideal platform for crime gangs.
The global betting market is estimated to be worth £1.5trillion each year, so of course Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) want to drink out that well.
There’s a famous quote by Balzac, and sub quoted in the movie The Godfather, that’s cliched but true: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.”
Infiltrating sport has, sadly, been all too easy for criminals – particularly in football, boxing and tennis.
The spotlight on OCGs in sport has shone on boxing recently as the US Government placed a $5million bounty on the heads of the three most senior figures in an Irish crime gang.
While he has never been convicted of a crime, Daniel Kinahan has previously been named in the Irish courts as the head of one of Europe’s most prominent drug outfits.
His father, Christopher Snr, 65, and brother, Christopher Jnr, 41, have also been named by the US authorities as being top of the list of their Most Wanted.
Kinahan has been a major influence in boxing and has worked with and advised world champion boxers.
Earlier this week Tory MSP Russell Findlay said he believed that Scottish football was “contaminated by drug money” in a similar way to the world of boxing.
Match-fixing is nothing new. We’ve all heard about the 1919 Major League Baseball scandal involving the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds.
The White Sox were accused of throwing the game for money from a gambling syndicate led by a famous US racketeer and mob boss, Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein.
Allegations of corruption and bribery have dogged Fifa and the World Cup for years.
Then came the rise of the internet and the chance to bet on every outcome of every sport known to man. The lure of an easy profit and a new avenue to launder their dirty cash made the sports world irresistible to OCGs.
Lack of effective governance means rising sports stars are fair game to the criminals who influence and fund young athletes so when the time comes they will be more willing to do their bidding – such as match-throwing.
Police Scotland recently teamed up with Scotland’s Serious Organized Crime Taskforce and Abertay University on a course aimed at warning young people about the dangers of criminals within sports. It’s all fair and good that proactive action is being taken but the Kinahan cartel and the sums of money being bandied about shows the tentacles of crime are far from being cut off.
Kinahan’s involvement with boxing has been defended, most notably by those who govern the sport. But integrity is the foundation of organized sport and tackling crime cannot be wholly on the shoulders of law enforcement.
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Until those that control sports demonstrate their integrity, resisting the bribes and tackling cheating, opportunities for criminals and racketeers will continue to abound.