Australia news February 8, 2013

Betting ads in Cricket Australia's sights

Australian cricket's next television deal may ban rights holders from the kinds of in-broadcast betting infomercials currently peddled by Channel Nine, the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has said.

The Bet365 online gambling firm is a prominent presence at Australian grounds through dual deals with CA and Channel Nine. But Sutherland conceded Thursday's Australian Crime Commission (ACC) revelations of the links between performance-enhancing drug use, organised crime and betting corruption had forced a reconsideration of how prominently betting agencies and their services were now featured around professional sport.

"We will consider that, whether it's appropriate or not," Sutherland said of the current betting inserts into Channel Nine's coverage. "As it is, there are certain things we have spoken to Nine about in terms of the way in which that's presented; it's not within play, it's separate, it's in breaks and technically they're allowed to make choices about who they promote and what organisations endorse their products in those breaks.

"There is no doubt that there will be a greater level of scrutiny and question marks about that. We'll make our decisions about that in time."

There is also a review of the interactive gaming act being undertaken by the federal senator, Stephen Conroy, which may yet place tighter controls on the advertising and "product-placement" of gambling firms within sporting broadcasts. CA's television rights deal expires at the season's end, with the Seven Network expected to make a significant play to wrest Australian coverage of the game from Channel Nine.

Despite the game's long and chequered history of underhanded links with gambling, betting firms have seldom been more prominent than Bet365 currently is. The relationship begs the question: how does Cricket Australia set the boundaries on bookies' involvement in cricket when its boundary rope bears the logo of a betting agency?

Nevertheless, Sutherland said the commercial arrangements presently struck between CA and betting firms provided a major deterrent for corruption in the form of the information shared between each party, the better to pick up unusual trends or financial relationships that contravene the rules.

"I think that it's a real positive," Sutherland said. "The level of connection between the sports and the license betting operators is a real gain in an integrity sense, because what we have is an ability to control the types of bets the license betting operators take on cricket.

"On top of that they are compelled to share information with us at any stage that we have cause for investigation on suspicious activity around cricket betting, and that wouldn't otherwise be the case. So if you didn't have those integrity arrangements with the betting companies, you wouldn't have that access to information - that is a level of protection that we are afforded, and in other parts of the world it just doesn't take place."

Though Sutherland is the chairman of COMPPS, the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports, the ACC investigation did not uncover specific examples of wrongdoing in cricket, which has had its nose bloodied many times before by issues of corruption. Sutherland said findings about the link between drug use and coercion towards match-fixing had been revelatory for him, and further encouragement to ensure all sports worked together to maintain their integrity.

"They did a whole lot of investigations and investigations led them down various paths, and the paths they went down didn't cover cricket," Sutherland said. "I'm not here telling you cricket doesn't have a problem. Every sport has a problem and we have to address that by ensuring we have the hardest possible anti-corruption measures within our integrity unit. So that's the step up we're going to take.

"The pleasing thing out of all this [is that] we're not, as a sport, going to be operating in isolation on this; we're going to be doing it in [conjunction] with government and all the other sports, and have a national integrity unit to share information and all these things. So people who hop from one sport to another and try and corrupt people or games or whatever, there's a heightened awareness of who they are and what they are doing."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here