Throughout my time working in sport, my goal has always been to promote sport universally and to eliminate the barriers preventing the development of sport. As a former president of Ireland’s gaelic athletic association (GAA), I have always strived to be a protagonist for perpetual improvement and innovation in all sports, be it at professional or amateur level. As president of the GAA, I oversaw major projects such as the redevelopment of the Croke Park stadium, in order to advance the association. In 2006, I was named executive chairman of the Irish institute of sport.
In December 2010, four MEPs and myself from across national and party lines were successful in passing a written declaration on support for grassroots sport, which positively set an ambitious target of encouraging 100 million Europeans to become more active, more regularly, by 2020. I am also currently promoting the development of an Erasmus for sportspeople programme. This would allow young sportspeople to travel abroad to train and educate themselves in the sporting methods and techniques of other EU member states.
As a passionate sportsperson, I am both concerned and troubled by the issues of match fixing and corruption in sport. These are very serious threats which are fatal to the wellbeing and the good name of our sports. In 2013, a cross-party group of MEPs and I tabled a motion for resolution calling on the EU to take action to combat corruption in sport. The European Union recognises the dangers that match fixing may inflict upon the integrity of sport and the damage it may cause to the social, educational and cultural values sport represents.
"The European Union recognises the dangers that match fixing may inflict upon the integrity of sport and the damage it may cause to the social, educational and cultural values sport represents"
Due to the ever increasing reach of the internet, match fixing is becoming more and more of a global epidemic. According to research conducted by Interpol and Europol, the biggest threat comes from criminal organisations based outside of Europe. It is imperative that the European commission and the member states establish cooperation with the countries in question to address this issue. It is also essential that law enforcement focuses its attention on the prevention of fraud in sport through education and the proper governance of sporting bodies.
The European institutions have been working hard on combating this issue since the European council's 2008 resolution on ethics in sports, which refers to match fixing as one of the new challenges to ethics in sport. Since then, a number of green papers and resolutions have been proposed and are dealing with the issue of sports manipulation. For example, the 2011 green paper on online gambling and the 2011 communication on sport, note that match fixing is a threat to the integrity of sport. The European Union considers promoting fairness in sporting competitions as well as preserving the moral and physical integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen to be among its main objectives.
As co-rapporteur of the European parliament’s resolution on match fixing, I cannot stress enough the importance that we should place our greatest focus on the prevention of sports fraud through education. The new Erasmus+ programme 2014-2020 lists prevention of match fixing as one of its key objectives, along with doping, violence and racism. It is fundamental to the cause that athletes are given all the necessary information to understand the gravity of this issue. Match fixing undermines the ethics and integrity of sport and therefore has to be dealt with firmly and decisively. I am wholeheartedly of the view that we need a committed global approach to tackle this criminal activity and continue the universal progress of sport.