Spot-fixing

'Follow England's lead on anti-corruption'

George Dobell

May 21, 2014

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Captain's innings: Ian Bell made 97 but couldn't avert the follow on, Yorkshire v Warwickshire, County Championship, Division One, Headingley, 3rd day, May 13, 2014
Ian Bell has called for a ban on mobile phones in dressing rooms for domestic matches to mirror regulations for international games © Getty Images
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Cricket boards around the world would do well to emulate the example of the English game in the fight against corruption, according to Angus Porter, the head of the players' union in England.

While recent revelations relating to Lou Vincent might have painted an unflattering picture of the extent of corruption in county cricket, Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, remains confident that methods used to combat the issue in England should be used as a template in the rest of the world.

"The Vincent revelations are largely historical," Porter told ESPNcricinfo. "They may only have come into the public domain in the last few days, but the ECB and PCA had known about them for some time.

"While they are a reminder that there is no room for complacency in the battle against corruption, we wouldn't want people to use them to express outdated concerns about the English game. Much has been achieved in the last few years and the recent news relates largely to a period before many preventative measures had come into place."

There are, in Porter's estimation, six elements to the fight against corruption. Crucially, given recent suggestions about the restructuring of the Anti-Corruption Unit, they require an independent investigative and disciplinary body, as well as national player associations and the full co-operation of the national cricket boards. That is not an environment offered in India and Pakistan, for example, who do not recognise player associations.

Porter's six-point plan:

1) Unity with independence
"It is incredibly important that all stake-holders act together," Porter says. "So in England we have seen the ECB and PCA work together to find the best way to educate those involved, but also investigate and act where necessary." But at the same time it is, he says, "essential that the independence of the investigative, reporting and disciplinary processes is maintained." So while the ECB may fund the ACU's work, they should not limit, interfere or attempt to influence in its work. And, as Porter points out "we need to be certain that it must not just be independent, it must be perceived as independent."

2) A distinction between the educational and investigative
In England and Wales, the PCA take on the role of educating players about the dangers of corruption and what to do should they be approached. They are not directly involved in the investigative or disciplinary aspects. "This is a particular challenge in those countries that do not have a players' association to help with the education function," Porter says. "It is very hard to go from the classroom with a player to then investigating them."

3) Start young
The prevention process now starts long before players sign professional terms with a first-class county. Anti-corruption education is given to academy players and ingrained in them as they develop through the system. Ignorance cannot be an excuse.

4) An amnesty
In 2012, an amnesty was declared in England in which players could report historic information. While little of significance came to light during that process, it did provide a last opportunity for those who might have been guilty to come clean and offered them no excuses should information come to light at a later date. "Other countries should follow the lead of the game in England and Wales and declare an amnesty," Porter says. "While our amnesty did not reveal a huge amount of new information, it did clear the conscience of a few people and made it very clear that a line had been drawn. There could be no excuse if anything came to light after that date."

 
 
"Confidence in the integrity of the game is paramount. We have achieved a great deal in the last few years and it would be wrong for people to judge the integrity of the English game on historic cases." Angus Porter
 

5) Tie-in education with registration of players
It has become mandatory for players to have completed their anti-corruption training before they can be registered to play for a county. "Players cannot take the field of play until they have done so," Porter explains. At times, with some overseas signings, this has only happened a couple of hours before a game, but there have been no exceptions. Not only does the process ensure that the players have been educated, it ensures they cannot use a defence of ignorance should they have been found to have engaged in corrupt practices.

"Cricket in England is, we believe, the only sport in the world that has hard-wired education into registration in this way," Porter says. "Again, I believe other countries would do well to follow this example."

6) Allow the prevention and investigation methods to be intelligence based
Over recent days, England players Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara have made comments in the media suggesting that preventative measures taken in county cricket were not as robust as those taken in international cricket. Notably, both called for the ban on communication devices - mobile phones and the like - in international cricket to be replicated in the domestic game. But, says, Porter that may not address the real issue.

"While we are delighted to see the obvious desire of the England players to see that everything possible should be done to combat corruption, it is important we think these things through," he says. "It may be that there is a place to restrict the use of communication devices in televised games, but while members of the public are still able to access dressing rooms during those games, it would seem to be pointless to introduce such a ban without taking other measures first.

"The danger is that such action will give people a warm feeling of contentment that they are doing the right thing, but that it will actually be no use at all. The evidence we have is that fixing usually takes place away from the ground and not on match days."

Porter also points out that most players involved in the England squads were not party to the pre-season anti-corruption programmes at the counties and might not be fully aware of the extent of the help now offered at domestic level.

"I think James Anderson was the only England player available for the pre-season education," Porter explained. "But the England team's anti-corruption runs parallel to the county teams' so no-one slips through the net. Anderson would have seen Mervyn Westfield give some incredibly powerful testimony on the mistakes he made.

"Confidence in the integrity of the game is paramount. We have achieved a great deal in the last few years and, while recent news reminds us that there is no room for complacency, it would be wrong for people to judge the integrity of the English game on historic cases."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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