Be on your guard — that’s going to be the buzzword in World Cup 2019. As the players gear up for the showpiece event starting May 30 in the UK, the International Cricket Council (ICC) will keep a close eye on all the participating nations and the match officials to ensure there is no foul play.
With spot-fixing raising its ugly head time and again, the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) will keep a check on the suspicious and illegal activities.
All the participating nations have been briefed, much in advance, about the Anti-Corruption Code which came into effect in February last year. The players have been apprised of the threat perception and the ACU wing will keep a hawk eye on the list of potential corruptors.
“Even though the players and the match officials are aware of the Anti-Corruption code, it is a responsibility of the ICC to make them aware about it. This is a general practice,” claims one of the team officials, who has been working in liaison with the ICC anti-corruption unit for the last few years.
During the tournament, the Alex Marshall-led ICC ACU team will work in tandem with the local authorities to ensure there is no threat to security.
In a first, all the 10 participating teams will have a dedicated Anti-Corruption officer.
According to team officials, who have been in the World Cup earlier, the ICC ACU would previously deploy personnel at each venue; teams would deal with a number of officials over the course of the tournament. But this time, one particular official will be assigned to a team from the warm-up matches to the end of the competition.
The official will be put up in the same hotel as the players. He will travel with them for the training sessions and matches.
The world body has also tied up with the Interpol, the organisation which facilitates worldwide police cooperation, ‘to combat corruptors in the game’.
The ICC ACU head, Marshall, was at Interpol headquarters in Lyon recently to explore how the two organisations can operate more effectively.
“The ICC has an excellent relationship with law enforcement agencies in a number of countries but working with Interpol means we are connecting with their 194 members,” Marshall says.
“Our focus is on education of players and prevention and disruption of corruptors. Where our enquiries reveal criminal offences have been committed, we will refer this to the relevant law enforcement organisations and this makes Interpol an important partner for us,” he adds.
In case a player sniffs suspicious activities, he will have to instantly report it to the team manager and alert the ACU officer. This, however, has been happening in the past ICC tournaments as well.
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“As a rule, the players and the match-officials know what the Anti-Corruption guidelines are. Before any ICC tournament, the member nations are alerted about the security measures. Players are alerted if there’s any person of interest — who has previous records of corruption — coming to light, and who are likely to be there (for the tournament),” former Delhi top cop, Neeraj Kumar, who was until last year, the head of the ACU at the BCCI, says.
No gifts or benefits
The ICC is also very particular with the players ‘receiving any form of gift, payments, hospitality or benefits’ which could make him compromise on the sport.
If any favour or benefits offered to a participant has a value of US$750 or more, the players must immediately alert the ACU officers.
Article 2.4.2 of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code underlines the activities prone to sanctions: “Failing to disclose to the ACU (without unnecessary delay) the receipt of any gift, payment, hospitality or other benefit, that the participant knew or should have known was given to him/her to procure (directly or indirectly), any breach of the Anti-Corruption Code, or (b) that was made or given in circumstances that could bring the Participant or the sport of cricket into disrepute.”
The match officials are often considered the softest targets for the bookies. The ICC has asked all the ‘participants’ — players, support staff or match officials — to make sure that none of the team secrets are compromised.
Article 2.3.1 and 2.3.2 category mentions that “using any inside information for betting purposes in relation to any international Match. Disclosing inside information to any person where the participant knew or should have known that such disclosure might lead to the information being used in relation to betting in relation to any international match,” would be considered a violation.
No access areas
Efforts will be taken to tighten security in the restricted areas for the players and support staff. The restriction also applies to former cricketers who are ‘not directly involved with the team’ or do not have special all-access permissions.
“Before the tournament begins, all the team officials and the captains will be explained the pros and cons in details and we are confident of hosting a smooth tournament,” one of the team officials said.
While there will be a special ACU control room active during the tournament, confidential emails, alerting any breach of Anti-Corruption Code, could be sent to contactACU@icc-cricket.com .
Last year, the ICC launched the ICC Integrity App, which gives anybody in the game easy access to information they need to tackle issues relating to anti-corruption and anti-doping. The officials at the world body claim that they have received tremendous response for the app, and it could be quite useful during the World Cup.
In the past, there have been instances of the bookies warming up to the ground staff as well — for information on the wicket. But as another mega event reckons, the ICC assures that it has a close watch on all the areas to ensure that there is no unpleasant experience in London.
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