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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No Holds Barred: Declan Hill on IOC vs. SportAccord and Match-Fixing 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with investigative journalist, academic, and expert on match-fixing in international football, Declan Hill.

In April 2015, he was appointed Senior Fellow in anti-corruption in sports at the University of Brighton in Sussex, England.

We spoke with Declan Hill by phone Tuesday.

The escalating number of crises and scandals in world sport have led many to call for fundamental change in its structure and governance. Another result has been the emergence of an open battle between the lords of world sport, something which is usually reserved for behind-closed-doors intrigue.

Most notably, last week Marius Vizer, the president of both SportAccord (the international federation of both Olympic and non-Olympic federations) and the International Judo Federation, spoke at the SportAccord convention and issued a public flogging of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president, Thomas Bach.

Vizer accused the IOC of, among other things, blocking SportAccord from organizing its own multi-sport events, not addressing the interests of the international federations, and preparing to launch an Olympic TV channel without a proper business plan. He bemoaned the poor financial state of many athletes around the world while the IOC rakes in millions and millions of dollars, noting that "athletes are lacking the necessary basic elements -- food, medication, equipment, preparation facilities and possibility to participate to competitions." And he said, "the IOC system is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent. The Olympic Games belong to all of us and we need real reforms."

This was met not only with a rebuke from Bach, but also the issuing of a statement of "strong support" for the IOC by most of the summer Olympic sport federations -- which largely depend on their funding from the IOC -- and the severing or suspension of their ties with SportAccord. The one exception: the International Judo Federation.

While round one of this public fight may have gone to Bach and the IOC, it is clear that both sides got a bit bloodied by it and it is far from over.

Declan Hill explained the essence of Vizer's speech as saying to the IOC, "Basically, you're not sharing the pie. We want the pie. You're not sharing it. And you're putting a blockage on other multi-sports tournaments."

We discussed this battle and what it means for world sport, including the combat sports.

Declan Hill has also done extensive investigatory work into the mechanisms of match-fixing and its relation to illegal gambling rings.

"This one issue will kill off sport," he said. "I have been in Asia. I've worked, I've traveled in the sports world of Asia, and it is an elephant's graveyard of sports that have been killed off by this questionable integrity."

He stressed: "People simply will not watch a sport that they think is fixed. It surpasses doping. It surpasses any other ethical issue. People want to watch a sport. They don't want to watch theater. And really, the response of sports officials to this current generation, this current threat to the sporting world, has been lackluster at best."

The question of whether or not the verdict in the May 2 mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will be fair or fixed has been a topic of worldwide commentary and speculation. We discussed that and possible scenarios in this highly anticipated fight.

We also discussed his experiences training in boxing in Cuba; the allegations of attempted match-fixing in international wrestling; why there has been "very, very, very little" progress in the fight to reform world sport; why fans should let sponsors of corrupt sports organizations know that they will not purchase anything from them; and much more.

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