Off the Wall

It may be a little late, but the decision by the NRL to refer the high level of wagering on one option in the Cowboys v Bulldogs game is welcome.

The best possible outcome we can hope for is simple - those who engaged in the alleged "sting" face criminal charges.

That will at least be a deterrent, for at present there is no real deterrent at all. The two instances that have come to notice in the last year have not led to one charge being laid.

This time there would seem to be substantial evidence the police can act on - based on initial work undertaken by the Chief Steward of NSWRL, Ray Murrihy.

Unless malpractice in sports betting on rugby league matches is crushed now, it will become a cancer that will damage the game massively - just as betting on UK soccer did a decade or so ago, and on international cricket is doing right before our very eyes.

There was an alleged attempt at a rort in a Cowboys game late in 2009, but nothing came of it. Then there was the definite "inside information" plunge on the Storm for the wooden spoon just hours before they were sent to the bottom of the ladder, and again no one was charged.

The NRL needs to understand that the one deterrent to sports betting rorts is the prospect of detection.

If players are involved, and if player managers are involved as is alleged today, then those involved should not be fined, then should be run out of the game. And that applies to coaches and club officials as well.

Some officials continue to bury their head in the sand on this issue. They need to wake up - the amount of money those involved in the attempted rort in the Cowboys v Bulldogs game was at least $250,000...a quarter of a million potential win on one of the little used betting options is no minor issue.

The NRL, and many clubs, have embraced sports betting with enthusiasm - any number of agency's have sponsorship agreements with NRL clubs - and some have actual partnerships whereby the clubs get a commission on bets laid by club members.

And just about every commercial media outlet runs advertising, or has sponsorship details with, sports betting agencies.

It is not a coincidence the inquiry into the Cowboys v Bulldogs game centres on betting on options during actual play.

The current crisis facing cricket does not centre so much on match fixing - but on options during play!

The whole issue of betting on NRL matches needs to be cleaned up.

The police inquiry is the beginning - not the end.