Spot-fixing controversy August 31, 2010

'Insufficient evidence' against Majeed, fears UK anti-corruption chief

The chairman of a UK commission set up to investigate the threat of gambling-related corruption in sport has told Cricinfo he believes there will be insufficient evidence for police to press charges against Mazhar Majeed, the alleged fixer who was caught on camera accepting money from an undercover reporter in a News of the World sting.

Rick Parry, the former chief executive of Liverpool Football Club, told Cricinfo's Switch Hit podcast that, despite a dossier of apparently damning evidence - including video footage of Majeed appearing to correctly predict the timing of three no-balls bowled by Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir during the first two days of the Lord's Test - the case was likely to flounder unless evidence of illegal betting activity was found to back up the claims.

"I don't think [the case] has any evidence at all," said Parry. "Unless the News of the World placed a bet - which would be highly unlikely because in so doing they would have carried out a criminal act - then there doesn't appear to be any betting activity at all associated with these particular allegations. It places the ball, to pardon the pun, squarely back into the hands of the cricket authorities."

Under the provisions of the Gambling Act 2005, which made cheating in sport for financial gain a criminal activity in the UK, it had been hoped that the very fact that these latest allegations had taken place in the country would help to carry them forward into the courts, and lead to a high-profile case that could act as a deterrent to others who might be tempted into similar wrongdoing.

However, Parry said that until such time that further evidence was unearthed, the greater onus would have to fall on cricket's governing bodies to live up to their promise, reiterated by the ICC's chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, on Monday, to take "prompt and decisive action" against anyone found guilty of match-fixing.

"The ICC is very much in the spotlight on this one, and so it can't afford not to [act]," he said. "When you see the publicity like we've had over the last couple of days, there can't be a single reason not to take the right action, because it's the reputation of the sport at stake, and nothing can be more important than that. Everyone connected with sport - participants and spectators - have a basic right to believe that sport is clean and that everyone is doing their best, because that goes right to the root of what's good about sport."

Parry did, however, credit the ICC for taking a lead among sporting governing bodies in attempting to police corruption its own issues, but added that more effort clearly needed to be put into the education of its young players, particularly in light of Amir's alleged involvement in the Lord's furore.

"I think one of the great sadnesses of all of this, and it's a widely held view, is that a great young talent like Amir has been implicated in this one," said Parry. "I think that's what perhaps separates this from many other cases, because it suggests that the bad guys got to him before the good guys did. One of the fundamental recommendations of our panel, along with disciplinary measures and sanctions, is that it's absolutely fundamental to have education processes in place, so that players and participants are taught from a very, very young age, first of all what the rules mean, so that there can be no excuses, and secondly that they are vulnerable to outside influences."

"To be fair to cricket, at ICC level they have taken very significant steps," he added. "They were one of the first sports to set up a proper integrity unit, in the wake of previous major issues such as Hansie Cronje scandal, so I don't think it can be said that the cricket authorities have done nothing. But in terms of educating the players, it could be that they've not done enough. It would have to be a shock that a talent that has broken onto the scene so very, very quickly is at the centre of all this.

"He'd have been enrolled in a cricket academy from a young age, and from the moment he shot to prominence with the international squad, you'd think that the Pakistan Cricket Board might have recognised a vulnerability and a need to put an arm around him. I can't imagine it would have been that difficult to do, because when you read of the sums involved in betting in the Far East - with up to $500 million on a single game - the temptation is potentially there for relatively lowly paid cricketers. It's beholden upon the authorities to step in and provide appropriate support systems."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.