Six-month bans for Gibbs, Williams

Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams were banned from international cricket until the end of this year on Monday, but they may have escaped harsher punishment because of the International Cricket Council's inability to promulgate and distribute clear regulations on match-fixing.

Gibbs and Williams both pleaded guilty to charges of accepting an offer to underperform in a one-day international in India earlier this year. Gibbs also pleaded guilty to additional charge of lying about his involvement. Pieter Strydom, meanwhile, was acquitted on a charge of attempting to place a bet during the Centurion Park Test match.

In addition to the bans, Gibbs was fined R60 000 and Williams R10 000. These fines must be paid before October 31 to avoid Gibbs serving a further six-month ban and Williams an additional two months.

The bans are effective from June 30 until December 31 this year.

The sentences were imposed on the players by an ad hoc disciplinary committee convened by the United Cricket Board. The point was conceded by the UCB that the committee was not bound by the ICC regulations because although the regulations were drawn up last October, for reasons which have not been explained they were only distributed and became effective on April 20 this year, after the offences committed by Gibbs and Williams had taken place.

It is also arguable that the regulations covered the offences. Gibbs and Williams both accepted an offer from Hansie Cronje to underperform, but in the event failed to do so. Regulation 5 - "Was a party to contriving or attempting to contrive the result of any Match or the occurrence of any Event" for which the maximum recommended penalty is a life ban - seems to most closely approximate the offence, but it is a moot point whether Gibbs and Williams could have been found guilty on a charge based on this particular definition.

Still, UCB president Percy Sonn acknowledged that the pair had been fortunate that the regulations had not been issued earlier. "They are beneficiaries of that lapse," he said.

The committee accepted argument from counsel for Gibbs and Williams that there were mitigating circumstances in that the conspiracy with Cronje was still-born and that both were heavily under the influence of Cronje.

Still, the committee made the point that the charges against the two were among the most serious that can be made against any cricketer.

In terms of their bans, neither may play, commentate or write about international cricket until December 31, but both will be allowed to play provincial cricket.

This means that Gibbs could become available again for South Africa for the second of three Tests against Sri Lanka, starting at Newlands on January 2 next year. Clearly, though, Gibbs will have win his place in the side back again and should Boeta Dippenaar, for example, establish himself as Gary Kirsten's opening partner, Gibbs' recall is by no means automatic.

Because Williams was influenced by both Cronje and Gibbs and because his financial circumstances were lesser than Gibbs, he received a lesser punishment.

Apart from the R60 000 fine, it is also estimated that Gibbs has lost a further R650 000 from cancelled endorsement and sponsorship contracts. His contract with the UCB will be terminated from August 31 and if it is only renewed next January, he will have lost R112 600 in terms of his monthly UCB retainer.

In a prepared statement, Gibbs accepted his punishment. "I am obviously bitterly disappointed that I will not be able to represent my country until next year," he said. "However, I am grateful that I will at least have the honour of being able to play for Western Province if so selected."