Independent anti-corruption body vital - FICA
An independent integrity unit overseeing cricket is critical to the game's future because corruption is not limited to the actions of players on the field. So says Paul Marsh, the head of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations, in the wake of news that the ICC's ACSU is to be reviewed by the Big Three cricket boards and revelations about the investigation surrounding the former New Zealand batsman Lou Vincent.
Marsh was concerned by reports that the shape of the ACSU may change drastically as a result of the review, to be conducted by the ICC chief executive David Richardson alongside representatives of the ECB, BCCI and Cricket Australia. He said the ACSU needed to be kept at arm's length from the boards of member nations so it could be better placed to deter and investigate instances of corruption at all levels, not merely those on the pitch.
"It's absolutely critical to have an independent anti-corruption unit," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "Whether it is exactly in its current form is something for people closer to it than me to judge, but I think it is critical we have an independent body investigating these issues. One because issues of corruption aren't just limited to what happens on the field with the players, and if you work on the assumption that administrators could be also subject to anti-corruption investigations you have to have an independent body doing that."
While fierce in his conviction that the ACSU must be allowed to remain independent, Marsh agreed the body was due for some evolution to keep pace with the rush of domestic Twenty20 competitions that have become a far more fertile environment for corrupt activity. Vincent's list of alleged instances of spot-fixing includes the ICL, English T20 cricket and the Champions League, all recent additions tot he T20 calendar.
"What we've seen over the last few years is the view that in international cricket the anti-corruption unit around that is decent," Marsh said. "But the risk has gone down to that next level and we've seen issues in county cricket, ICL, there have been allegations around ICL and even the IPL. So it shows there's got to be a focus not just on international cricket but domestic cricket and T20 tournaments. It's an area of risk, players are probably not educated as well as they are at the international level.
"You've got to get the best anti-corruption people you can get who are independent and are able to manage these tournaments. They are hopefully working in conjunction with the local people because the reality is the anti-corruption unit comes in for this tournament, they're not there for 12 months. There's a lot of intelligence that can be gathered over 12 months ... if a player is involved, or an administrator, coach or umpire, they are not going to be limiting their activities to eight weeks of the IPL.
"You've got to work together, but it's really important you have an independent body that is looking at each of these issues. As much for what it looks like as for what it actually is. It's the biggest stench that surrounds our game, but not only do you want a sport that's free from corruption, it's got to look like it's free from it."
Happy that Vincent had offered to share wider information about fixing than that relating to himself, Marsh expressed dismay that his testimony had been leaked via a document distributed beyond the confines of the ACSU. An insistence on the strictest confidentiality for those making reports of untoward happenings has long been one of the demands of players associations.
"In many respects it's a positive that a player has come forward and reported on information that they have, and in this case he's been right in the middle of," Marsh said. "The flipside of that is it's extremely disappointing that testimony he has given has found its way into the public domain. Player associations have tried to encourage players to provide information to the anti-corruption unit and their respective boards, but this type of leak makes it difficult to continue to ask players, notwithstanding that they have a responsibility to report approaches, you expect confidentiality around that information.
"That part of it is disappointing - I'm not laying the blame at the ACSU on that issue, I'm not saying it was or wasn't them, I know multiple parties had access to this report. If the players are going to trust the process, there has got to be guaranteed confidentiality around it. This information in the wrong hands can be very dangerous to the players."
One suggestion Marsh has raised is the offer of some incentives, perhaps in terms of more lenient punishment, if players implicated in fixes elect to blow the whistle. "We'd like to see some sort of incentive for players to report," he said. "In this case you have a player who is alleged to have done certain things and appears to have admitted to certain things.
"If he is able to get some sort of leniency for taking what is a brave step not only reporting but providing information about others, then I think it's important that everyone sees there is some sort of leniency shown if a player does that. I certainly don't advocate that a player should get off free, but there's got to be some incentive there, otherwise players probably will run the gauntlet."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig