ICC news March 14, 2011

ICC needs to understand how betting industry works - Rutherford

The ICC needs to understand the working of the sports betting industry to recognise when match-fixing may occur, according to Ken Rutherford, the former New Zealand captain who now works in the South African sports betting business. Rutherford said he has "made the point" to the ICC that it needs to understand the sports betting industry and be pro-active in cleaning up the sport.

"I would be shocked if a World Cup game was interfered with," Rutherford said in an interview with this writer. "The spotlight is at its most extreme and the fixers could find better options for their skullduggery in matches where the focus is less strong."

However, he said the ICC had a lot of work to do going forward. Betting markets, he said, should be closely monitored by experts during games for any suspicious movement of money. "(This could be done) by employing traders from the sports betting industry whose job it would be to watch the markets on a daily basis. They could set up some kind of software that would be applied to the markets that would act as an alert should money be moving oddly - that is, against the natural progression of a match."

Citing the example of football, Rutherford said that the ICC should form information-sharing partnerships with the world's biggest bookies. "When odd betting behaviour is suspected, the network is informed. Often markets will be closed as a result of this information. The network has a direct line through to UEFA (European football's governing body), who are informed prior to a match beginning if any match fixing is suspected.

"At my old job at Singapore Pools, we often heard things in advance from our own network of ''spies''. If something was suspected in football, the match officials would warn the players prior to the game that the match was suspected of being fixed, and that they better not try anything."

But such safeguards would not be able to solve something that continues to flourish on the sub-continent outside the purview of regulation, illegal betting. Rutherford admitted that the only way to try and tackle it was to somehow infiltrate the bookies' underground network. "It's not easy - but it's crucial. Illegal bookmaking operations in India and in other parts of Asia are rife, so some kind of cricket's own underground network could be set up to better understand the lie of the land. Some of the bet types are only available to clients of the illegal bookies."

The problem of illegal bookies was too large to be wiped out completely, Rutherford, said; the way forward should be to legalise it, so that the government could earn some revenue, and some of the above safeguards could be put in place. "Risk management systems can easily alert the operator to the possibility of foul play. By treating sports betting as a social outcast, it is allowing the whole illegal bookmaking network to flourish. In places like Hong Kong and Singapore where governments have approved sports betting, it has had some impact in combating illegal bookmaking."

Jason Dasey is an Asia-based international broadcaster, corporate host and media trainer