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ECB set to ramp up anti-corruption protocols amid growth of live-streaming

Phones could be banned from all county dressing rooms, whether a match is televised or not

George Dobell
George Dobell
The quality of live-streaming services in county cricket has improved hugely over the last five years  •  AFP via Getty Images

The quality of live-streaming services in county cricket has improved hugely over the last five years  •  AFP via Getty Images

The ECB are likely to bring in new measures designed to safeguard the domestic game from the threat of corruption.
At present, there are different protocols in place to manage games which are broadcast and those which are not. But with the streaming of matches growing more common and more sophisticated, it is anticipated the majority of games will now be treated as if broadcast.
In 2020, streamed games - including the Bob Willis Trophy final, which was viewed by almost a million people across five days just on Sky Sports' YouTube channel - were not subject to the same strict requirements of games broadcast in a more traditional manner.
The ECB's integrity officers review their protocols after every season to ensure they are keeping abreast of developments. Before the start of the 2020 season, for example, the use of smartwatches was banned in all county cricket whether the games were broadcast or not.
Although the ECB have not yet confirmed their plans for the 2021 season - any recommendations will have to be signed off by the board - it seems likely that players, officials and support staff will be required to hand over their mobile phones, and any other devices which can be used for communication, before play each day.
While such a measure may sound simple, it is likely to require significant investment both in terms of educating those involved and in terms of enforcement. For an organisation still coming to terms with the impact of Covid-19 and having just made more than 60 redundancies, that is not ideal.
But the popularity of the streaming services has risen sharply. Now, with multiple cameras and dedicated commentary teams, the county feeds are not just the preserve of diehard fans. In recent days, Lancashire have announced an intention to target the Indian market with their matches being shown on JioTv.
With an enlarged audience, however, there is a possibility that some will seek to exploit their access to more cricket. And with routes into more high-profile matches already effectively policed by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit, these games could be targeted with experience suggesting those involved will attempt to contact players involved in ongoing matches.
It is unlikely any changes will be announced before February.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo