AN ATTEMPT by a few players of an unnamed ‘international’ cricket team to fix a match was thwarted by the ICC Anti-Corruption & Security Unit (ACSU) recently with action already having been taken against the guilty party. ACSU chairman, Ronnie Flanaghan, revealed that the ICC had got wind of these intentions by a few individuals to ‘manipulate events to facilitate betting’ and had prevented any corrupt activity from being carried out.
Flanaghan was speaking in the build-up to the World T20 about the ACSU’s plans to ensure that their upcoming flagship event will go through without any untoward event and at the end of it, ‘we will be talking only about cricket’. And it was when asked whether his unit had averted corrupt approaches by following their protocols that the former Home Office Chief Inspector of Constabulary for the United Kingdom spoke about the attempted fix.
“Without speaking about the details because it is still under our investigation, certain individuals we believe had the intention to manipulate events to facilitate betting on those events. When we come by a belief that something may happen in the future, bearing in mind that we exist to prevent corruption we decided in this particular case immediately, we would bring together the entire squad, we would focus on individuals whom we suspected but we would remind the entire squad of their responsibilities,” he said while speaking at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Sunday.
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“I am certain that our action in that particular case indeed prevent the intention of just one or two individuals and we have taken action in relation to those individuals and will be taking further action as well,” added Flanaghan.
While admitting that the ACSU was just a small unit dealing with corruption and not a ‘police force’, Flanaghan insisted that they couldn’t be judged on how many people they have prosecuted. But he did admit that within their limited resources, they were trying their best to prevent any form of corrupt activities from being indulged in.
“Our main aim is to dealing with those in cricket who are bound by the provisions of the anti-corruption code and in order of priority our activity is to prevent corruption, to disrupt activities of those seeking to engage in corruption and then if we have to actually investigate and prosecute incidents of corruption. I think it is very important to realise that those four activities are in order of priority. We seek to prevent and disrupt those engaged in corruption, we do that by a whole range of means,” he said.
Flanaghan also spoke about the educational programmes that have been provided to players, officials and support staff alike, where they are all encouraged to report suspicious approaches. For that purpose, the ACSU have opened up two hotlines—a tournament hotline and another one at the ICC’s head office in Dubai. In addition, all the stakeholders have been handed out booklets—small enough to be fit into their wallets—which acts like a constant reminder of their ‘responsibilities’ to keep up the credibility and integrity of the on-field action.
“We have a special hotline for this tournament and on a day-to-day basis we have a hotline that anybody can use to contact us in our office in Dubai. And if the office is not manned, then the message is automatically recorded, examined the next day and acted upon. We use quite sophisticated softwares to analyse such reports that we are given and it could be from any source like from players, match-officials, journalists or members of the public,” he explained.
Flanaghan revealed that 450 such reports had come the way of the ACSU over the last year and it was a challenge to distinguish between serious complaints and ‘gossip’.
“You got that whole range of what we might describe as one-end information moving across a spectrum to intelligence which we seek to build into actionable intelligence that we seek to then build to evidence that we might be able to present to a cricket tribunal or dig through using the relationships we have with the police forces and it could sometimes end up in criminal cases in the court,” he said.
But Flanaghan was realistic and pragmatic about whether cricket could possibly weed out corruption completely, citing that it was a sport played by humans and that there could always be the potential of bad apples spoiling the brunch.
He even brought up an analogy comparing the ACSU with the medical fraternity to explain the improbability of keeping a check on villainy in sport.
“If you tell a surgeon if you can completely eliminate ill health, he will say that it is not possible to completely eliminate it but we can keep improving our methods of preventing and cure. So it is like that with cricket. The sad fact of life is that the human nature means that there will always be bad people and there will always be people who seek to earn money through corrupting others,” he explained.
He also believed that young players were the easiest targets for those aiming to ruin the sport for their own malicious benefits.
“I have the description in the past that sometimes these corrupters are like paedophiles and what I mean by that analogy is that they are prepared to spend a long time particularly grooming young players. It might start with a simple praise after the match where the person might end up giving his contact card and the offering of a small gift which might then develop into offering of a more expensive gift which might some evening end up into a honey trap,” he said.