Written by John Sutton
September 16, 2016
Strike Force Narulda has officially been launched to investigate allegations of match fixing within rugby league matches.
An initiative of the NSW State Crime Command’s Organised Crime Squad, Narulda has begun interviewing dozens of players, officials and members of the community after a preliminary investigation suggested match fixing took place during the 2015 NRL season.
Prior to the launching of the Strike Force it was widely expected that suggestions of match fixing would again be dismissed without recognition of the seriousness of the allegations, as has occurred in the past. Although accusations of match fixing have repeatedly arisen since the infamous NSWRL Grand Final of 1963, only one player in the history of Australian rugby league has been criminally charged and convicted for dishonest conduct within a match. While playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2010, Ryan Tandy was convicted of Dishonestly Obtaining a Financial Advantage by strategically fumbling the ball on two occasions. He was convicted, fined $4000 and placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
The 2010 investigation and Tandy’s subsequent conviction led the NSW Parliament to enact laws specifically drafted to create new offences particular to cheating at gambling and provide a foundation for a national regulatory system. The amendments to the Crimes Act 1900 were designed to capture a broader range of activities related to gambling and match fixing that were difficult to prosecute under the legislation that existed at the time of Tandy’s hearing.
These anti-cheating offences have similar available penalties to fraud offences. One such offence, Engaging in Conduct that Corrupts Betting Outcome of Event, has a maximum imprisonment period of 10 years as a possible penalty for the offence. The anti-cheating legislation, enacted in 2012, provides that encouraging another person to engage in conduct that corrupts the betting outcome of an event is also a crime and has identical penalties to the head offence.
In addition to criminal prosecution, involved parties can expect to be barred from the sport entirely if found guilty of criminal conduct associated with gambling. NRL Chief Executive Todd Greenberg has confirmed absolute life bans from any future involvement in Australian rugby league for anyone convicted of an offence following this investigation.
Given the intense media scrutiny surrounding match fixing allegations, concentrated police efforts and particularised legislative framework, it is anticipated that the allegations will be comprehensively investigated and will lead to a number of criminal charges under the idle anti-cheating legislation.