Growth of live streaming prompts ECB anti-corruption rethink

Under current protocols, there is a clear distinction between televised and non-televised games in county cricket

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
The majority of counties now provide a live stream for their non-televised home games  •  Getty Images

The majority of counties now provide a live stream for their non-televised home games  •  Getty Images

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is reviewing its anti-corruption codes and policies in light of the growth of live streaming in county cricket.
The ECB's existing anti-corruption codes involve a clear split between regulations for televised and non-televised games, with much stricter practices for games shown on television.
But with the number of county games that are streamed live increasingly exponentially in the past four years, that distinction has been blurred.
Nottinghamshire experimented with streaming their home games in 2016, and since then more and more counties have started to do so. While the terms of the ECB's broadcast deal with Sky means that live games have to be 'unlisted' - meaning they do not show in YouTube search results - traffic has soared in the past two seasons, and counties hope that those regulations will be changed next year.
Similarly, live-stream audiences are increasingly international. Earlier this season, Somerset had to upgrade their website's server capacity due to the level of traffic from Pakistan fans hoping to watch Babar Azam.
Under current protocols, the only county games that have 'Minimum Standards for Players' and Match Officials' Areas' in place are those that are televised, meaning that players and officials are told to hand over their phones and any other communication devices to anti-corruption officials ahead of the start of play in such games. They are then locked away and returned to them after the close.
As things stand, players are able to use their phones in the dressing room throughout domestic games that are not televised, and are permitted to wear smart watches while on the field of play. In international matches, the anti-corruption procedure dictates that players and officials cannot wear smart gadgets in the dressing room or on the field of play.
The opportunity for information exchange came to light during the final round of the County Championship season when Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire legspinner, revealed that he had found out about his call-up to England's Test and T20 squads thanks to a notification on his team-mate Steven Croft's smart watch. The ECB confirmed that Croft had not contravened any anti-corruption policies.
In 2018, several Pakistan players wore smart watches during their Test against England at Lord's, but were told by officials to stop after the first day.
An ECB spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo: "We continuingly review our codes and policies.
"We are aware of the potential risks involved in streamed matches and that's why, working with our integrity service providers and the betting companies, we assess the betting markets closely and run a thorough preventative educational training module for all players and match officials."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98