Will jail terms for match-fixing deter cheats?

Cricket’s spot-fixing scandal and its unprecedented jail terms have battered the sport’s credibility, but experts say the case will eventually benefit what was once known as a gentlemen’s game.

The sentences handed out to three Pakistani players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif — and their agent Mazhar Majeed for spot-fixing during the 2010 Lord’s Test against England have stunned the cricket world.

But India’s World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he had no sympathy for fixers.

“It’s the worst thing you can do while representing your country,” he said.

It is not the first time that the cricket world has been rocked by scandal. In 2000, match-fixing led to life bans for Test captains Hansie Cronje (South Africa), Mohammad Azharuddin (India) and Salim Malik (Pakistan).

But cricketers had never previously been sent to jail for corrupt practices — something that could make players think twice before they do deals with shady bookmakers.

Wake-up call
Popular cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle said the scandal would serve as a wake-up call for players, administrators and fans.

“I fear this might lead to more cynicism, a greater feeling that games, or moments, are fixed,” he said.

“It may be a bad day for Butt and company, but it may not be such a bad day for cricket. Cricketers can now see what may happen.”

Respected cricket writer Peter Roebuck agreed the jail sentences of between six and 32 months, handed out in London on Thursday, would help the game.

“Detection is difficult, but deterrence has more chance of success,” Roebuck wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Events in Southwark Crown Court and subsequent sentences will help cricket to clean up its act. Those contemplating corruption might not be worried about suspensions but might baulk at a long stint behind bars.”

In danger of being destroyed
The International Cricket Council (ICC) had previously banned all three players for five years, which they are appealing against.

That the scandal was unearthed by a sting operation by the now-defunct News of the World highlights the apparent failure of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).

The ACSU was set up in 2000 when, in the ICC’s own words, “cricket’s reputation and integrity were tarnished and in danger of being destroyed”.

The unit was headed by former London Metropolitan police chief Paul Condon until June last year, when he retired and was replaced by another senior former British policeman, Ronnie Flanagan.

The ICC has defended the anti-corruption unit, which posts officers at every international match played around the world, saying the ACSU did not have powers to arrest culprits or send them to jail.

Bhogle said he hoped the sport’s administrators would take strict measures to enforce their stated policy of zero-tolerance on corruption, but refused to blame the ICC alone for the current situation.

“The easy way out is to attack the ICC,” he said. “But it does not have the power to send people to jail or to launch a sting of the kind the News of the World did.

“However tame it might seem, education, and stringent punishment in the face of evidence, is about as far as they can go.”

The lure of easy money
Cricket’s dark underbelly, plagued by underworld match-fixing gangs who reportedly bet millions of dollars at virtually every match, remains a constant threat to the sport.

Indian police regularly bust betting rings across the country when cricket internationals are played, but offenders often get off lightly.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation gave a prescient warning about the underworld’s links with cricket when it probed the match-fixing scandal in 2000.

“During the inquiry,” its report said, “it was learnt that the lure of easy money has gradually attracted the underworld into this racket … It seems that it is only a matter of time before major organised gangs take direct control of this racket, a phenomenon that will have implications not only for cricket but for national security as a whole.” — AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Kuldip Lal
Once a journalist. Now finally doing something worthwhile. Here I speak only for myself. Kuldip Lal has over 1032 followers on Twitter.

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations