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February 2, 2012
The ICC has endorsed an accreditation system for agents, and a rule requiring that it approve all gifts to players and officials, as part of a shift in how it polices corruption in cricket. The changes - both issues came to the fore in the 2010 spot-fixing case - are among 27 recommendations contained in a report submitted to the ICC by Bertrand de Speville, a former Solicitor-General of Hong Kong.
Seven of the recommendations were already in place, the ICC said, and 13 others were accepted. However, the ICC had reservations about the remaining seven - including a provision that unexplained wealth of players, match officials and support staff be investigated - but said it was committed to discussing them further "both internally and with stakeholders".
The influence of player agents attracted scrutiny during the spot-fixing trial, in which Mazar Mahmood, the agent of the three Pakistan players who were convicted along with him, had a central role. It was a response to the allegations against the trio that the PCB introduced its registration policy for player agents in 2010. England also has a policy in place to approve agents and so too will the ICC, following Speville's recommendation that it introduce one in consultation with its members and the ACSU.
The report also cited gift-giving as the "precursor to an improper approach", and recommended that the ICC oversee all gifts given to players, staff and officials. "Experience in other walks of life shows that a gift offence (less serious than bribery) is an invaluable alternative offence in the numerous instances where the necessary connection between the gift or benefit and the improper conduct cannot be proved," the report said.
It recommended that failure to seek the permission of the ICC to seek or accept a gift be treated as a breach of the Code of Conduct. In order to avoid a situation where players had to approach the governing body for every gift they get, the report suggested a list of certain types of gifts be created which would receive general permission, for example, typical birthday gifts. Those gifts that were not given general permission would then need specific permission from the appropriate ICC officer. There should also be a list of gifts from certain categories of donors that would never be acceptable.
"The applications for specific permission would describe the gift, the circumstances of its offering and acceptance, the identity of the donor and the applicant's estimate of its value," the report said. "It would also propose how the gift was to be disposed of: kept, shared, consumed, donated to charity or returned to the donor. On receiving the application the ICC would consider the circumstances and give its decision. The applicant would be bound by the ICC's decision. "
Though it accepted the danger of gift-giving in principle, the ICC planned to consult with its stakeholders to figure out how such a system could be implemented. In addition, a final decision would only be taken after the governing body had considered the Woolf report in full.
Where the ICC disagreed with the report was on the matter of investigating a person's wealth. The report stated that: "If it can be shown that he has wealth or enjoys a lifestyle far in excess of his contractual earnings, he could be called on to provide an explanation of how he came by such wealth or is able to enjoy such a lifestyle."
However, the ICC was concerned that any attempt to uncover where such wealth came from would require the assistance of governments and financial institutions and would therefore be "hugely burdensome on the players and extremely difficult to administer". Despite the reservations, the ICC said it understood the rationale behind the recommendation and will discuss it with its wider group of stakeholders.
The Speville review comes 10 years after the landmark Condon report was released in 2001 and said, "the problem of corruption in cricket has not gone away despite the efforts of the ICC and ACSU". The birth of Twenty20 cricket and the creation of the IPL were also thought to have "considerably increased the risk of match-fixing and spot-fixing".
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