Australia integrity boss to investigate corruption threat in esports
Melbourne - Australia's newly appointed sports integrity boss has said he will work with the nation's esports industry in the fight against betting-related corruption after police revealed they had charged five men for match-fixing in online gaming.
Detectives from the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit in southern Victoria state announced the charges on Sunday, alleging that players in Melbourne and regional towns threw matches they had bet on during a gaming tournament last year.
David Sharpe, who from mid-year will head Sport Integrity Australia, a new government agency merging anti-corruption and anti-doping bodies, said he was mindful of the potential threat organised crime posed to esports given its interest from betting markets.
"I had early discussions with a former (esports) CEO around integrity within their sport and I am looking forward to engaging with them in my new role to work around the potential risks and threats," Sharpe told The Australian newspaper.
"I think there will be discussions to do that, particularly given our access to global intelligence."
Global interest in esports has soared during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced traditional sports to temporarily shut down.
Major sporting leagues, including the National Basketball Association in the United States and soccer's English Premier League have staged esport tournaments featuring professional players in home isolation.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel made his esports debut on Saturday in Legends Trophy races that also featured retired Formula One world champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Jenson Button.
The German has some time on his hands with Formula One's season stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic and organisers hoping to get going in Austria at the start of July.
The four times champion finished 15th and 12th respectively after being caught up in incidents on the virtual version of the Sepang circuit that hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix between 1999 and 2017.
While Vettel, 32, and Button, 40, are both actual Malaysian Grand Prix winners, 73-year-old Fittipaldi's time was in the 1970s when the real Brabham BT44s, simulated in the virtual race, were around.
The first race was won by Colombian former McLaren and Williams F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, a double Indianapolis 500 winner, while the second went to Mexican Adrian Fernandez.
Vettel's team mate Charles Leclerc has been active on various platforms from his Monaco apartment, even taking part in virtual lawn mower and truck races. The 22-year-old Monegasque has also won two Formula One virtual races and will take part in another on Sunday, which would have been the day of the postponed Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
Vettel acquired a simulator only recently from the Allinsports company owned by Torque Esports, organisers of the Legends Trophy, and said he would try it out for fun at his Swiss home.
"I’m aware that some people take it very seriously and spend a lot of time there but I also enjoy doing other things," the German, a father of three, told reporters this month.