Sport NZ and Winston and Robbo et al, actually make that all NZ sports fans, could just be looking into the eye of the storm in relation to match-fixing in our shaky isles.
The alleged Harness racing corruption scandal looks like swindling on a big enough scale, especially for this little place. Punters might have been fleeced of millions. We don’t know to what extent the damage is yet. No doubt extenuating circumstances will be argued in defence. It’s completely heinous though, and it’s greed, plain and simple. The punishments will be likely swift and severe. Or at least they should be.
There has to be a strong message shot across the bows of other potential wrongdoers. Did an industry which for many years has yielded relatively low returns tempt the accused? Sure, it’s easy to be an outsider and drive the knife in, and I’d quite likely feel differently if I had a personal connection to one of those in trouble- for that is human nature.
If the evidence in the harness case uncovers long-time money laundering, one must wonder what on earth other sports are doing to ensure everything is kosher in their set-ups. ‘Pish’ you might think- equine racing has always had the potential, or indeed the history, for attracting such behaviour and that there is next-to-no chance of other potential cases to answer occurring across further sports here. Different scenario, but national league basketball, anyone?
Perhaps those Specsaver ads that are planned for future times should feature anyone involved in sport in this country who is prepared to summarily dismiss the likelihood of such behaviour staining other codes.
What would be really worrying, and granted it’s pretty unlikely, would be to find out in due course that bigger syndicates, or basically a professional and organised crime gang was the driver behind the purported Harness racing fraud. Akin to what the PM mentioned regarding the shadow of big business, that eventuality should set off the huge neon signs with the exploding fireworks in the background.
Although given time, it may not actually be so far-fetched- Around May 5 or 6, 2016, a retired, previously top-level businessman from Taiwan (a massive golf, horse racing and general sports fan) who I tutored privately in English, took me along for an hour or two to the High-Rollers lounge of the SkyCity casino in Auckland. This Taiwanese gent has close connections to this country through family members residing here.
He still retains the ownership of a significant scrap and steel company (fear not- his firm isn’t the supplier of that dodgy steel they used for the Waikato expressway), and has many dealings with a huge country just on his doorstep. At any rate, after he’d read a piece I’d done on sportsfreak a few months prior, it led him to slip a few observations my way during our visit.
With what seemed like a fairly high degree of confidence he pointed out to me that that at any given time, there were probably two to three bods on that very high stakes casino floor, who would, in time (bearing in mind this was solely his opinion alone), if they got established here for long enough, would possibly look at creating networks at laundering money across easily accessible pursuits like sport, with associated fixing. At the heart- buckets of money for coercion. Multiplied tenfold for those pulling the strings if outcomes were successful. At the time I just about laughed. But our world is so downright connected, crooked and complex these days, it’s not beyond possibility. And where money meets sport and then unfortunately gets introduced to greed, it’s really just an extension of a whole worldly phenomenon.
I believe we would be well-served to keep this in mind. And to keep having robust, completely incorruptible integrity units with direct police links. In fact, if the parasites move in, the time in years may not be as far away as we think when a blanket sports integrity/corruption division requires setting up by the Sports Minister and associated bodies. David Howman would certainly be championing such a thing if the things got really bad.
I’m laying it on fairly thick, I know. And I may be a little too ready to concur with the thoughts of a person who was actually just making suppositions (how informed I would never attempt to guess) on an afternoon in a casino. But by the by, some points are still worth thinking about, are they not?
*I have previously re-hashed the past article (I think), but it’s still relevant. So here it is one more time from Dec 2015. And there was the interview with Jim Doyle I did that followed two months after:
Paul M (firstname.lastname@example.org)