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UK: Premiership Footballer reminded of the importance of integrity in sport

All sporting bodies promote integrity in their given sport and generally have a set of guiding principles that underpin the rules and regulations of the game. The lack of integrity in the way in which an event is managed or the performance of players will clearly detract from the fairness and openness of any game and such characteristics are particularly scrutinised when gambling is involved.

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere recently received a warning for the comments he made on Twitter in relation to Arsenal’s Champions League game against Olympiacos in December. Wilshere tweeted that Emmanual Frimpong to score first in the game was “worth a cheeky £10”. Although Jack Wilshere’s intentions may have been completely innocent, and Frimpong did not actually score first in the game, it is the fact that he is deemed to have inside information and he could be using such information improperly and unfairly by placing a bet that resulted in the disciplinary action. The fact that both players play for the same team is one thing; it is also notable that they are both professionals in the same sport and regulators and governing bodies would view his tweet as potentially using information that was not in the public domain in order to make a profit.

UEFA clearly sets out its principles in respect of integrity in relation to gambling in sport. Article 5 of its disciplinary regulations reads:

 (1) Member associations, clubs, as well as their players, officials and members, shall conduct themselves according to the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship.

 (2) For example, a breach of these principles is committed by anyone:

 (l) who participates directly or indirectly in betting or similar activities relating to UEFA competition matches, or who has a direct or indirect financial interest in such activities.

Professionals are made aware of these rules and what is expected of them from an early stage and the same messages are constantly reiterated and enforced throughout their career. Wilshere clearly knew that his tweets were not in keeping with his obligations as a professional and subsequently said “I didn’t actually bet on the game. I know we’re not allowed to! I was only messing just to be clear.”. The reprimand Jack Wilshere was subject to clearly highlights that sports professionals need to fully understand the possible implications that could stem from their actions, however light-hearted.