Match-fixing November 15, 2011

Match-fixing rampant in 1980s-90s - Condon

ESPNcricinfo staff

Cricket's former anti-corruption chief, Lord Paul Condon, has said match-fixing was rife during the 1980s and 1990s, and involved all the major nations. He also said spot-fixing began around the time of the 2003 World Cup and has now become "the name of the game".

"In the late 1990s, Test and World Cup matches were being routinely fixed," Condon, who was the first head of the ICC's ACSU, told the Evening Standard. "There were a number of teams involved in fixing, and certainly more than the Indian sub-continent teams were involved. Every international team, at some stage, had someone doing some funny stuff."

There had been plenty of rumour and speculation during the 1980s and 1990s, but it was only when the revelations involving Hansie Cronje emerged in early 2000 that significant action was taken. Condon, though, explained that match-fixing had roots away from the international scene in competitions such as the English County Championship and Sunday League, but not for sums of money.

"If you're Team A and have a higher position in the Sunday league and I'm captain of Team B and my team have no chance in the Sunday League, I might do a deal to ensure you got maximum points in your Sunday league match," he said. "You would reciprocate in the County Championship. These friendly fixes quickly became more sinister, probably in the Eighties."

After the unmasking of Cronje and match-fixing, he said, "the game was in meltdown, sponsors were walking away, demanding their money back." Condon's first major tournament with the ICC was the 2003 World Cup and, though he said it was the event helped eradicate wholesale fixing of matches, he said it may have marked the moment when spot-fixing arrived.

"In one group match during a couple of overs two guys suddenly went from scoring runs in double-figures to just ones and twos. For spot-fixing, that's all you need." The footage was shown to a panel of former Test players, who could not agree if it was corruption. Spot-fixing has been in the news of late with three Pakistan cricketers - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - jailed for their parts in deliberately bowling no-balls against England, at Lord's, in 2010. Butt was sentenced to two-and-a-half years, Asif was handed a year and Amir got six months.

They were caught with evidence provided by a News of the World undercover sting operation, a process that the ACSU hasn't been able to use to root out corruption although Condon said it was considered when he was in charge.

"We considered it and a policy decision was taken that, firstly, it would be highly unlikely the police would prosecute," he said. "They would say, 'This is entrapment, the cricket authorities setting up their own people.' The laws of entrapment are pretty clear. And, secondly, in our early education programmes, cricketers were told, 'If you're approached for a fix, this is not some scare by cricket trying to set you up and then giving you a b********g. This will be for real either by fixers or journalists. So, if you get involved, you must take the consequences.'"

Condon added that it was vital that an example was made of the three Pakistan players to show that corruption came with serious punishments, but did have a modicum of sympathy for 19-year-old Amir.

"Amir is an unsophisticated young man," he said. "If you're put in an environment where you think your future career is threatened if you don't do what your captain's asking you to do, and there's no one in the team management you feel you can go to, in that sense you feel sorry for that young man. But that's not to say he doesn't deserve a symbolic punishment. He's the only one I have even a moderate amount of sympathy for. To keep cricket clean sentences have to be exemplary."