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Will World Cup corruption crackdown make any difference?

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David Bond | 14:53 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

If we learned one thing from the publication of the ICC anti-corruption tribunal's full judgment in the case of the Pakistan three last week, it was that the measures in place to stop players contacting undesirable middlemen were not working.

Players might have to hand in their mobiles and Blackberries when they enter the dressing room, but that didn't stop Mazhar Majeed, the players' agent, calling Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir at all hours in their hotel rooms.

Now with the cricket World Cup about to get under way on the betting-mad sub-continent, the ICC has tightened its anti-corruption code.

A report by the Indian judge Dharmesh Sharma last year illustrated the scale of the illegal betting problem in India. He said it had reached alarming levels with "as many as 2,000-3,000 bookies operating whenever cricket matches or any other sport are played all over the world".
So to try to combat the problem, the ICC has introduced the following:

* It has changed its rules on "communication devices" during the 45 days of the World Cup. This is longhand for a Twitter ban and is designed to stop players tweeting potentially valuable inside information on a match before they arrive at the ground.

* There will be a ban on laptops for players, with team management limited to four per dressing room and only one allowed to be connected to the internet.

* Security officials will be given broader powers to monitor players, although the ICC is not going into any more detail on this as they don't want to alert the fixers.

* And the sanctions for players caught breaking the rules will become clearer and slightly tougher with those guilty of a third minor breach (such as having your mobile phone in the dressing room) now automatically fined $5,000. In the past there was no clear sliding scale of fines and sanctions relating to breaking the anti-corruption rules.

Speaking on Tuesday, the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, was upbeat saying the new measures would help them "handle any situation".

But is that really the case? Again, one only needs to refer back to the ICC judgment on the Pakistan spot-fixing affair to realise how easy it is to bypass the rules.

Angus Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers Association, argues that until the ICC carries out a proper risk assessment on the sport then tweaking the rules will just feel like window dressing.

Amir, Asif and Butt were each given lengthy bans

Amir, Asif and Butt were each given lengthy bans

He told me: "Is this really making any significant step forward in the fight against corruption? I don't think it is.

"Is it sensible to have prescribed sanctions? Yes. But I think on the whole this looks like wanting to be seen to be doing something. If you want to really deal with it then address the risk properly."

For many, the only solution to the problem of illegal gambling is to legalise and regulate it in India.

Lorgat pointed this out this week when he said: "If betting syndicates are legalised then it will be easy to regulate. Where it is not regulated it will go underground. If betting is legalised then it will be far easier to manage the issue of temptation towards corruption."

But there is deep political resitance in India to legalising gambling. When the Sports Minister Hugh Robertson was in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games last October he was warned off trying to raise the subject at a meeting with his Indian counterpart. Instead a compromise was reached with the Indian government to look at ways of tightening the sporting rules.

The ICC will feel that in handing bans to Butt, Amir and Asif before the World Cup started it has drawn a line under the spot-fixing affair and sent a message to the cheats.

But the players are due in court in London on 17 March in connection with the separate criminal case against them and Majeed.

And no matter how much the ICC might like to move the spotlight back onto the cricket, the problem of corruption will remain in the spotlight.


  • Comment number 1.

    It's not going to do much good when we know that high-ranking authorities and Groups are involved in such activities and have considerable influence in what goes on in the World of Cricket. It is probably not on a mafia scale, but lets just say, many individuals involved in the betting market have positions of seniority in the Cricketing World.

  • Comment number 2.

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  • Comment number 3.

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  • Comment number 4.

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  • Comment number 5.

    The ICC is a (very) slow and bureaucratic organisation. And they don't often get things right, when they do make a decision (e.g. cutting WC participation to 10 countries, basically excluding non-Test countries). But as interim measures go, I can't find too much fault in banning phones and laptops from the dressing rooms. No, it's not very effective, but it can't exactly do much harm either.

    What I can't understand is a Twitter ban. Being able to follow the banter between players, their thoughts on matches and progress is one of the great benefits of social media. For the fans, at least. What a shame...

  • Comment number 6.

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  • Comment number 7.

    Banning the Pakistani team from all international activity for 10 years would certainly make players think twice about fixing matches. If players are still stupid enough to fix games then they should not only face lengthy bans they should know that they will face criminal action as well.

  • Comment number 8.

    What did Mazhar Majeed get (or should I say ‘lose’) in this entire episode? I mean a bookie approaches the players (the means are irrelevant) and offer them millions just for an odd no-ball that doesn’t affect the overall outcome of the match. They give in to the greed and deliver against the big money promised to them. But then they all get caught. The players get bans and their reputation is tarnished, which is good. Even jailing them would’ve been justified but how come the bookie is released? What not try and close the door altogether for the people who might want to approach any other players in the future?

    So the example that has been set is that anyone is free to approach any player with any lucrative offer…if he succeeds he makes millions and even if he gets caught he’s still safe as its only the players who will be punished.

  • Comment number 9.

    Banning the Pakistani team from all international activity for 10 years would certainly make players think twice about fixing matches


    It would also completely kill the game in the region. Great idea...

  • Comment number 10.

    The sad thing is that this WC will be robbed of potentially the most exciting bowler! What a sad waste, all for a few no-balls. It's the cricket fan that misses out at the end of the day. The main problem lies with the respective Cricket boards who take any allegation against them as demeaning, imperialist racism.

  • Comment number 11.

    Lets all hope we have a corruption-free world cup.

  • Comment number 12.

    #10 is right in that its the fans that miss out.

    But it is not the cricket boards, it is the bookies. The only answer which will work is to legalise gambling. Then it is taking the business away from gangsters who are the ones that corrupt the players. This is where the corruption lies; with the crooks, not with the players (I'm not saying they are blameless)

    Prohibition never works. as soon as something is banned it will end up in control of whoever is the biggets & baddest

  • Comment number 13.

    DOH! I didn't read the last bit about gambling. Well then there is no answer.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's like pretty much everything else. Prevention doesn't work. Preventing corruption and intended corruption with todays mobility and communications is an exercise in futility.

    What you can do is lay out the rules, penalties and expected behaviour very clearly and make acceptance of those rules a condition of playing the game internationally. Get the countries to sign up that they will never again select anyone guilty of transgression.

    Punishments should be harsh and always applied- for corruption they should not be seen in the international game again, ever. I don't care whether their authority allows them to play domestically or not. If a country attempts to select a banned player then they should be barred from the international game for a year or two till they learn that there is no alternative but compliance.

  • Comment number 15.

    May be the best way forward is life bans for players and ban bookies from the cricket grounds/clubs.

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