Other sports can learn from cricket's unfortunate experience — Malcolm Speed

Malcolm Speed told an international sports convention in Madrid that cricket had been brought to its knees by the match-fixing crisis which hit the headlines in 2000.

"Other sports can learn from cricket's unfortunate experience," said the International Cricket Council chief executive.

"We were surprised at how easy it was for the corrupters to tackle our sport. Cricket's officials were slow to act and the situation became worse."

Revelations by former South African captain Hansie Cronje that he had accepted money from bookmakers sparked a spate of corruption inquiries around the world.

It resulted in five players, including Cronje, being given life bans from the game. The other four were Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman of Pakistan, and Indians Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma.

"Cricket faced a period when the sport was on its knees. Rumour and intrigue shook the game to its roots," said Speed. The scandal also led to the establishment of the ICC's own Anti-Corruption unit, headed by Lord Condon, the former head of London's Metropolitan Police.

The ACU now operates with a budget of �1m a year and at least one security manager is assigned for every international series.

"We can say with some confidence that the sport is now free of serious corruption, but we know that the corrupters are ready to come back if we relax our guard," Speed added. German football legend Franz Beckenbauer recently warned of possible match-fixing at the 2006 World Cup if the format is changed to allow 36 teams to compete.

"Some teams would have to wait a week to find out if they were eliminated. Others could agree on a result," the Bild newspaper quoted him as saying.