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Pakistan betting scam allegations

i wouldn’t normally be up at this ungodly hour on a Sunday, but as I emerged from the cinema last night from watching Inception (bloody good, by the way), my phone had a tweet on it from BBC Breaking News, two missed calls, and a voicemail message. All four were in connection with the Pakistan match-fixing allegations, and Five Live wanted to know if I would be prepared to crawl out of my very comfortable bed and talk to them at the crack of dawn about betting on cricket. I duly did a brief slot with Ian Payne straight after the news at six o’clock as the Breakfast programme came on.

The view I expressed will come as no surprise to readers of this blog: that fixing in sport, micro or macro, can only be executed by people involved in it, and that if there are betting people paying them for that execution, they are only going to be coming from the black market – a point that was easy to make given that I couldn’t find a single bookmaker I’d ever heard of which is offering a bet on whether the next ball will be a no-ball.

That doesn’t stop this being terrible news for cricket: people will now question whether the game is riddled with corruption. I doubt that is the case, although of course mine is a perception like anyone else’s, and none of us can know the truth. What I do know for sure, because I have worked with them, is that the ICC has one of the best anti-corruption programmes in any sport: it educates up-and-coming players from early in their careers about how they might be targeted by the unscrupulous, and tells them what they should do about it. I believe that they have made great strides in the years since Hansie Cronje, but I know that many have been concerned about spot betting of this sort, which has always been suspected in Asia but has never been uncovered effectively and pinned on any perpetrator.

It is also bad news for the legal betting industry, which will be confused with the villains: as I have said before (using a line which Ladbrokes flattered me once by nicking!), the regulated betting market is no more connected with this than Boots is with the importation of cocaine. But however wrong it might be to do so, people will see ‘betting’ and believe that this is something that is perpetrated on the High Street or online. In fact, this is about underground, illegal betting, taking place on the back streets of the sub-continent. Indeed, you could argue that it is barely betting at all, since betting, by definition, is placing money on an unknown outcome of an event. This is just extorting money on a known outcome by pretending that the outcome is not known. It’s just fraud. But none of that will change the fact that, as Aggers said this morning on Five Live, allegations of this sort make you wonder what else is not for real, and that undermines everything.

So the question is, ‘what next?’.   For me, as I said to Ian Payne, the solution comes back less to focusing on betting and more to asking where the corruption lies. Focusing on “betting” will take us down a false path of recrimination against a legal and legitimate industry; focusing on corrupt individuals means looking at the simple fact that only people involved in sport can actually fix it. I don’t buy the argument that says that if a player is involved, it will only because he has been coerced against his will: there are protections in place to prevent that, particularly as part of the ICC’s programme. If a player has done what is alleged, it will nearly always be for personal financial gain; which would just make anyone involved a crook.

Sport should always be played to win to the best of each player’s ability. If, as seems likely from the News of the World footage, any cricketers are found to have tried to fix any part of this match for £150,000, then I hope they get thrown out of the sport, pour encourager les autres. Although the alleged betting in question would have had no direct impact on the result, everyone who believes they are watching a true spectacle is being defrauded. Any sportsman who believes that even a micro part of a match is his toy to play with as he pleases, and fix for any reason, has no place in any game – not least because if you’re going to step into the dark side and fix one thing, who knows where you’re going to decide draw the line. They are crooks first, and talented sportsmen second.

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5 Responses

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  1. Leonthefixer says

    Hi Mark

    [i]” I don’t buy the argument that says that if a player is involved, it will only because he has been coerced against his will: there are protections in place to prevent that, particularly as part of the ICC’s programme. If a player has done what is alleged, it will be for personal financial gain – period[/i]

    I think you have perhaps simplified that a little. I am not saying that all players are doing it because they are coerced against their will. But to say it can only be for financial gain, period, is wrong.

    There are many circumstances where the protections in place to prevent players being coerced would not work. I will give two examples (I am not saying they apply in this case):

    1. A male player who is married with children was to be filmed/photographed in a compromising situation by the people trying to get the player to do something.

    2. The people trying to get a player to do something may know that the player is Gay and have proof. The player may have a family, have not told their own family, it could be against their religion.

    Both of the above the player would be unlikely to want the authorities to get involved and if by agreeing to do something that is relatively minor and unlikely to be detected may be willing to do it to keep their ‘secret’, secret.

    As I say I am not saying this applies to this case but I understood what you wrote as applying in general as in that these things are always done for financial gain – perhaps I misunderstood you?

  2. MD says

    Yes, I accept it would be a bit definitive if you read it as a sweeping statement covering every instance (although that is not actually what was written, although I have now clarified the ambiguity). I am trying to make the point that people too easily excuse the fact that only sportsmen can impact results, by saying that they are all coerced by threats and violence. Historically, this has patently not been true; nor is it likely to be the situation in a world where sportsmen are given such education at such an early age as is offered by the ICC to promising young players. More often than not, by some considerable distance, the driving motive is greed.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. World Wide News Flash linked to this post on August 29, 2010

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    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. Tweets that mention Pakistan betting scam allegations | Mark Davies -- Topsy.com linked to this post on August 29, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim Crow, markxdavies. markxdavies said: Been up since 5.30 because of Pakistan betting allegations! http://tiny.cc/wnkya […]

  3. Is the ICC at fault? | Mark Davies linked to this post on August 30, 2010

    […] painfully obvious, in the case of this particular ‘betting scandal’, that the scandal has less to do with betting than it has to do with outright fraud. Equally,  it is evident that the problem in question is not in any way exacerbated by the […]

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