Steven Richardson, ICC coordinator for investigations, said a legislation for match-fixing would be a ‘gamechanger and would be the single most effective thing to happen in terms of protecting the sport’.
In an online symposium organised by the Sports Law and Policy Centre, the ICC official said lack of legislation proved to be a deterrent to curb match-fixing as the governing body could only have control over the players and not the actual criminal syndicate who are the root cause of the problem.
“I could actually deliver to the Indian police or the Indian government now at least eight names of people who are serial offenders and who are constantly approaching players to try and get them to fix matches. But when there is a lack of legislative framework in India, it's very limited to what the police can do. I have great sympathy for them because they try as professionally and hard as they can to actually make the existing legislation work. But the reality is, it wasn't framed with sports corruption in mind. So there is an imperative need for a legislation specific to match fixing,” he said.
“From the ICC perspective, we have a robust anti-corruption system that allows us to take action against players. As much as I do not see the players as the main problem when it comes to match fixing, the players are the final link in the chain, who actually would go out onto the pitch and perform any act if they had agreed to do so,” he elaborated. “The problem as I see is in handling the people who are organising the corruption, the people who are paying the players money, and most of them sit outside the sport.”
'Little we can do'
Ajit Singh, head of BCCI's Anti Corruption Unit, Rebecca John, senior advocate who represented Sreesanth in the IPL spot-fixing case in 2013 and senior journalist Pradeep Magazine were also part of the panel on match-fixing legislation. The discussion was moderated by advocate Suhrith Parthasarthy.
Ajit Singh admitted that with no legislation, the BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit often finds it hard to catch the offenders. “As an anti-corruption agency, there is little we can do to catch the outside participants,” he said.
Richardson also spoke about how criminalisation of betting with no laws against match-fixing were proving to be a bigger problem.
“As far as the legislation is concerned, it's quite an anomaly that you could bet Rs. 500 rupees on the outcome of the match and that would be illegal in India. However, if you are offered $30,000 to a player to underperform in that match, then there's nothing illegal,” he said.
“We have to be very, very clear here that betting itself is not corruption. So what is corruption is people who are trying to get the players to do something in order to make money from betting.”
He cited the example of Sri Lanka which became the first country in the sub-continent to criminalise match-fixing last year and hope India to emulate it soon considering the upcoming T20 World Cup as well as the 2023 World Cup which will be hosted by India.
“At the moment, with no legislation in place, we have good relationship with the Indian police, but they are operating with one hand tied behind their back. But legislation would be a game changer in India. It would be the single most effective thing to happen in terms of protecting the sport,” he said.
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