Ronnie Flanagan interview

'ACSU's independence will be maintained in any review'

The head of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit speaks about what his organisation does, what it needs to do, and the ongoing review of the way it works

Sharda Ugra

May 24, 2014

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Over the last month, the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) has been the focus of attention, starting with the news that its operational framework and scale of funding were under review. Then followed the leaking of confidential player testimonies that were part of an ongoing ACSU investigation, with the focus on the body's low conversion rate between investigation and prosecution. Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the ACSU chairman, spoke to ESPNcricinfo about the criticism levelled at his organisation, the prospects of its reorganisation and the difficulties in implementing anti-corruption measures within the rapidly changing framework of the global game.


IACSU chairman Ronnie Flanagan answers a question regarding the spot-fixing controversy, London, September 3, 2010
"Education of players and all that we do to prevent corruption, that is the sort of thing the ACSU should be judged on, not the number of prosecutions." © Associated Press
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What is the ACSU's reaction to allegations that the ACSU and ICC shut down the investigation of the 2011 CB40 match between Sussex and Kent in Hove, which has now led to the ECB charging Lou Vincent and Naved Arif with fixing?
That was not at all the case. There was some correspondence between the ICC and Sussex and the ECB back then. But as far as Sussex was concerned, they came to the conclusion at that early stage that this was a clean match. In fact, through the ACSU's work, including work with Lou Vincent, we came to the conclusion that this match had to be re-examined and we immediately passed on the intelligence to the ECB. From that time the ACSU and the ECB have worked hand in glove together on this. It's a very good example of close co-operation, corroboration and collaboration, and therefore we welcome very much the fact that it is now decided that there is sufficient evidence to lay the charges which have been laid. But it is absolutely and utterly wrong to suggest in any sense that the ICC had given clearance for that match and then subsequent investigation proved that to be erroneous - that is not the case.

It is actually a very good example of the close working of a domestic member board and the ACSU, because the ACSU has no jurisdiction whatsoever in relation to any domestic game. The ACSU has jurisdiction only over international fixtures, or other fixtures such as premier leagues, where they are contracted to do work on behalf of an individual league.

When we did come by intelligence towards the end of 2012 that there were wrong-doings, we immediately passed the intelligence we had to our ECB colleagues. And from that time we worked with the ECB, and that joint working has led to the charges within the last 24 hours or so.

The new investigation in 2012 came about through examining betting patterns of that game?
That's just one part of the investigations. We in the ACSU have memorandums of understanding with betting authorities, and of course we examine betting patterns in a particular match, but that is just one aspect of that investigation.

From what you're saying about that game, is it more accurate to say the investigation was shut down at the member-board level, rather than ACSU-ICC?
It's not even right to say "shut down". An initial report was examined and there wasn't sufficient evidence to continue at that stage.

How do you respond to criticism of the ACSU, based on the poor "conversion rate"? For example, 281 leads in 2011 without any convictions.
You talk about a poor conversion rate... if you go back to 2011, we received something in the order of 170 intelligence reports. The last year that had multiplied to 412 reports, and in the first three months of this year, 142 such reports. So the fact that those numbers are increasing is very healthy, it is something we welcome. But a report of something suspicious does not lead to a prosecution. It may be a report from a player that he was approached by a suspicious-looking individual and offered a gift. So it is absolutely not right to judge the ACSU on simply the number of prosecutions.

The major thrust we are engaged in is prevention. Ultimate investigation is but one small aspect of the work we engage in. Education of players and all that we do to prevent corruption, to disrupt the activities of the corruptors - that is the sort of thing the ACSU should be judged on, not the number of prosecutions.

Sir Robert Peel, when he created the Constabulary of Ireland and seven years later created what was to become the London Metropolitan Service, he set out five principles for policing and in setting out those principles, prevention of crime was much more dominant than investigation and detection of crime. I think that applies to the whole world of anti-corruption in sport as well. What we must do is our very best to prevent corruption happening, and that has to be our prime priority. Of course when it does happen, we must rigorously investigate and bring to justice those who have been involved.

Is there a worry in the ACSU that given the recent leaks around the Lou Vincent investigations, players will not be confident about reporting incidents in the future?
Absolutely, there's a worry. When players, match officials or witnesses of any sort come forward to us and quite properly report evidence of suspicion that they have, they do so often on terms of confidentiality. So for us it is a matter of deep, deep regret when such confidential matters appear in the media. We in the ACSU are currently conducting an investigation as to how such matters were leaked to the press. We want players, officials and any sort of witnesses to realise we take this very seriously and we are investigating how these leaks could have taken place, and we want to make sure this doesn't happen in the future. So that trust which is crucial between players, officials and witnesses and ourselves is maintained.

Sadly, in the course of a complex investigation that involves the ACSU, individual member boards and indeed investigative authorities and police forces in countries, such information has to be passed to many people. It's going to be a complex matter to determine who had access to this, and therefore who might have improperly leaked it to the media.

Have players communicated their worries about confidentiality to you?
Yes, we have been in touch with players, offered every support, and we have tried to explain to them - and that is why we want publicly to explain that [leaks to media] is something we take seriously and something we are rigorously investigating. That relation between players and us is something that we see as absolutely crucial in our work.

The IPL in its early stages was played in the UAE and we approached some very senior players to ask if they would give us some recorded message in relation to our education programme. Almost immediately 27 world-class players and officials recorded messages for us, which we will now build into our education programme. It's just a small example of the relationship between us and the players and how importantly we see that relationship.

At what stage is the ACSU governance review that is said to be on at the moment?
This review is something that is absolutely natural and it is something we very much welcome. It is something that we in the ACSU will be contributing our thoughts and our views on. It is only natural that people independent of the ACSU should lead a review. It is not enough for us to be engaging in self-scrutiny. We will be feeding our thoughts and our considerations into that review process.

The world of cricket is changing and in the anti-corruption world of cricket, we must also be constantly changing, not just to keep pace with the corruptors but hopefully to keep ahead of them. This ongoing review has just stared and it is nonsense to have seen in some media, reports of conclusions, absolute nonsense. This review will take some months before it comes to any conclusions but it is something we in the ACSU very much welcome. And will fully participate in.

You are saying a few months, but there seems to be an assumption it will be done and dusted by the time of the ICC annual conference in June.
No, in fact I would say almost certainly it will not be done and dusted by June. This is absolutely mis-speculation. Indeed, when this review is completed, the whole structure of anti-corruption is something that will be kept under continuous review to make sure what we engage in is continuous improvement. How we go about our business, whether it be the resources we deploy, the structures we build those resources into, the technology that we make use of, all of these things will be included in the review and kept thereafter under continuous review.

As a unit that does not have police powers, how equipped do you find yourself to tackle changes in the game - formats, technology, economies. What do you see as the ACSU's biggest limitations?
You're absolutely right to say we don't have police powers, nor do we seek police powers. We do have powers granted to us by the ICC and [through] the agreements with player representative bodies, so that players in the first instance sign up to the code of conduct. Signing up to that code of conduct means players know what they can and cannot do, and what they must do in terms of reporting to us any suspicious approaches made to them and things like that. They know that in appropriate circumstances, they must give us billing records of telephones that they use and things like that. We keep those powers under continuous review, and we keep in very close contact with similar bodies in other sports. That is very important because I'm certain corruptors don't confine themselves in their business to an individual sport. We make sure that if advances are made by one body, that good practice is shared by another.

But I would want to assure people that we don't seek to be a police force. What we do seek is very close relationships with police forces all across the world. A good example is that we have signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the Australian federal police, as we look forward to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. So that when things actually infringe upon criminal matters, we can share any intelligence with formal investigative bodies in that particular country, and it is very important we keep those relationships.

 
 
"When players, match officials or witnesses of any sort come forward to us and quite properly report evidence of suspicion that they have, they do so often on terms of confidentiality. So for us it is a matter of deep, deep regret when such confidential matters appear in the media"
 

What are the common patterns found in corruption across various sports?
One of the patterns we see is how these corruptors try to "groom" young players, and they behave almost like paedophiles. Sometimes it will start simply by praising the players as to how well they have played, how good they have been. Then it will extend to offering them gifts, which they may not see as suspicious in the first instance.

We've heard the infamous phrase "honeytrap" - young men may be offered young women. All these sort of things, so that's the example of the pattern we see across sport as to how these evil people try to draw young professional sportsmen into their web. Then they have them, they photograph them in compromising positions and blackmail them. Tell me this, do this, do that, otherwise we'll expose you to your family and so on.

People do behave badly in patterns and therefore it's up to us to recognise those patterns and to educate players and match officials not to be drawn into such patterns of ill behaviour. It's important that we keep educating people to avoid that. And where it happens, or they suspect it is happening, they must report it to us immediately.

What would you say are the ACSU's limitations at a time like this?
When you talk about limitations, I must say in my time that any requests we have made to ICC have been responded to very positively. So there is no suggestion that we have been limited in any way by the powers that be within cricket. But as the game changes, I think this review will look at the resources we have. Not just at the ACSU in the centre but in individual member countries. It will look at how we can liaise more closely than we currently do, so that we make the most effective use of all the resources that are available all across the game.

I don't want to pre-empt the conclusions of the review, but there is a good probability that an increased number of resources and personnel overall in the game of cricket could result from the review.

What do you think the ASCU needs in real terms? More people on the ground? More funding? More powers?
I think there are a number of things. We work very closely with the anti-corruption units of individual member boards and we must work even more closely. We must share intelligence, we must make sure we have a shared database, and we must have the means to interrogate that database. We are looking at how we can conduct proper analysis of what we are seeing and how we can reach out to other sports and other anti-corruption units. And I do think, apart from making sure that we work much more efficiently at the centre and in terms of individual members boards, there will be a small increase in personnel overall as well [after the review].

What about funding. Is the figure of $5.5 million enough?
I have to say the ICC has never held back when we have sought more resources, for the acquisition of new technology etc. It is a big commitment, it is a lot of money to spend, but I think that will be part of the ongoing review. Do we need to spend even more? I think I can give you with certainty the answer: we are certainly not going to be spending less.

An IPL franchise official said to us that the new anti-corruption measures in place at the IPL were humbug, that there is a culture of non-compliance with codes in the IPL, and of double standards. How do you change that impression in domestic T20 leagues?
I think to use those generalisations gives a wrong impression. Of course at the moment, the provision of anti-corruption services and the monitoring of domestic leagues is the responsibility of that member country which conducts the league. Those things are a matter for individual member boards, but of course the ICC in its overseeing capacity will be working together with the members to make sure that there is as far as possible consistency across the board, and that the rules that apply to one league apply to other leagues as well.

Even after working with several domestic T20 leagues, is it not disappointing for the ACSU that only few requests come from member boards to follow any leads made available to them?
We must be sure that we don't spread ourselves too thinly on the ground, so we need to keep our resources under review and only commit to what we can actually do. We know that CA has the resources to look after their own Big Bash. That's not something that disappoints us at all. We keep in close touch; we share good practice and share intelligence. There is no question of disappointment. What there is, is a determination to make sure that every form of the game, and every structure within which the game is played, is kept clean.

Do player associations need to be taken into confidence during investigations, since they are vociferous about privacy and confidentiality rights etc?
Involvement of the players associations is absolutely crucial. At the end of the day it is players the corruptors try to reach and therefore we depend on them reporting any such improper approaches. When Lord Condon created the ACSU, he created it to be a friend of the players. We have to realise that you and I have been discussing the dreadful spectre of corruption in cricket, but we must remember actually 99% of the players are clean.

In the aftermath of the Lord's Test [in 2010], good players, clean players felt physically sick. There were English players, for example, who scored centuries and felt that a wonderful achievement was suddenly debased by the fact that certain players had deliberately underperformed.

Players by and large want the game to be clean. So it's important that we keep a close working relationship with players. Should players' bodies be involved? Absolutely, yes.

I have to say that young [Mohammad] Amir, the convicted Pakistan bowler, made a very important video for us that had a great impact on our education programme. It is important that players spread the word among themselves and young players get good examples shown to them.

Given the amount of criticism and attention the ASCU has received in the past few weeks, is it more important that you have someone out there speaking on your behalf - not from the ICC but from within your smaller group? Or in the larger scheme of things is it merely a perception issue and you don't care?
Of course I care. I think it's important that people understand what the ACSU is about and how it goes about its business. Personally I want to make sure that the message is delivered more frequently, and hopefully more clearly, in a way that people can have a greater appreciation of the work. That question of communication is important.

Given the politics in cricket administration between the ICC and home boards, and between the home boards themselves, does the ACSU feel hamstrung in its operations by what else is happening?
What is very important, and what was important to Lord Condon when he created the ACSU, was the independence of the body. So in terms of how the game is structured and all the governance arrangements, that is something we steer clear of. What we insist upon is our independence, and I am certain that in any review that independence will be maintained. I am fully confident of that.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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