IHF Marketing Policy on Gambling (An Open Letter to IHF President, Dr Hassan MoustafaDear Dr Moustafa,
I am a big fan of Team Handball and I am concerned (no actually, I am amazed) at the close relationship that Team Handball has developed with Internet Gambling sites. The following is now proudly posted on the IHF webpage:
“The international online bookmaker Expekt.com is the new official title sponsor of the IHF XVII Women's World Championship taking place in St Petersburg, Russia from 5 to 18 December 2005.
A World Championship is a high profile event, which covers a broad range of markets. In 2003 the Women's World Handball Championship produced 198 hours of global television coverage. An audience of over 40 million watched the coverage of the event.
Expekt.com has the exclusive championship naming status in all media channels and will receive exposure on site in St Petersburg as the Expekt.com logo is placed on court.
“This event allows Expekt.com to reach our target groups on an international level. We believe in communication through channels that attract our desired customers based on their own interest of the existing event,” says Jacob Lindorff, Global Sponsorship Manager Expekt.com.
Expekt.com offers a wide variety of opportunities for its customers. Sport is an important channel for Expekt.com to achieve these goals since it is closely related to the target group and their interest in betting on sport related events.
Expekt.com has closed the deal in close collaboration with their European sponsorship agency S&B and SPORTFIVE, the exclusive representative for marketing and media rights of the IHF XVII Women's World Championship.”
As anyone who follows sports closely knows, nothing undermines a sport more than the possibility of match fixing. Does your marketing staff read the sports page? Just recently, German soccer had a scandal which resulted in a referee going to prison. http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/story/5088730
In the US, scandals have affected several sports, but the most vulnerable sports have been collegiate sports where athletes are not paid to play. Are there any amateur athletes in St Petersburg this week, who after getting soundly beaten by a European team, might decide that if they are going to lose they might as well lose by more than the point spread and make a few dollars while there at it? Could one of the better teams decide that they don’t need to win by so much on a meaningless game? Might a ref decide to make a few well placed bets prior to a match?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that sports betting should be outlawed or ignored. In many respects organized and regulated gambling sites can actually safeguard the sport, by monitoring and detecting unusual betting patterns. Say for instance, an unusually large number of bets being placed in Montevideo on Russia beating Uruguay by more than 26.5 goals.
But it’s one thing to acknowledge that betting on sporting events takes place. It is entirely another thing to proudly display the Expekt.com logo on the playing court. What kind of message are you intending to send to the players, the referees, and the fans? We support and encourage gambling on Team Handball?
I certainly hope the next gambling scandal isn’t Team Handball related. If it is, don’t be surprised if the conflicted message the IHF currently has on gambling is part of the legal defence. I hope the IHF can see the light and adopt a policy prohibiting marketing relationships with gambling sites. In the mean time, at the very minimum, standards and penalties in regards to match fixing should be widely distributed to all participants in IHF events.