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The ICC is looking into allegations that France Cricket (FC) staged fake games to show its commitment to women's cricket in the country in a bid to secure funding from the global body.
The allegations were made in a report by France24 after a former French women's international and member of the board, Tracy Rodriguez, first uncovered what turned out to be phantom games. The ICC says it is taking the allegations seriously and is expected to begin an investigation into the issue. It is too early to say whether the ACU (Anti-Corruption Unit) will be involved.
Rodriguez, who was elected to the board in 2021 but left earlier this year, told France24 that she decided to act on her doubts that as many women's games were being played as the board claimed. She went to grounds where matches were supposed to be taking place but found no activity.
"Two or three times I [went] there, people were having picnics and kids cycling around at the time of the game," she told France 24. "Then the day after I would see the results of the games online."
France24 did the same thing, attending matches when and where they were supposed to be played, only to also find no games taking place. They went to a ground north of Paris to watch a women's second division game, did not see it take place, and three days later, "France Cricket rubber-stamped the match as having taken place and posted the results on their website."
The report reveals details of the funding FC receives from the ICC and how much of it is pegged to the development of the women's game and junior cricket. "According to a 2021 ICC presentation on the state of cricket in France, the ICC provides 60-70% of France Cricket's total budget, roughly $320,000 out of a total of $520,000 for the year 2022. Almost half of these ICC funds are meant to support women's and juniors' cricket."
The report also quotes James Worstead, the coach of a fourth division men's team, who says France Cricket requires clubs to have a women's team for the men's teams to play in the top leagues. That, he said, puts pressure to fake matches. "Most clubs cheat, they pretend to have a women's team," Worstead told France24. "They pay for licences and then they fake score sheets online … We have refused to fake matches and that means that even if we qualify we're likely to never be able to get a promotion."
Clubs are fined if they are unable to turn out a team for games.
"In 2021, the year France Cricket began mandating clubs have women's and junior teams, the organisation declared €20,210 in income from fines on its annual tax invoice - a ten-fold rise from 2019," the report said. "During the 2022 season, when evidence of phantom matches started emerging, the income from fines dropped back down to €5,248."
The ICC, the report said, has received complaints from a number of people involved in the game in France, including Marjorie Guillaume, a former FC CEO. Guillaume alleged she was sidelined from involvement in the budget and that there was "a lot of incoherence" with the way FC talked about its budgets. It also quotes Andrew Wright, head of ICC's European region development, saying that there is "a process to make sure the levels of cricket activity that take place within a country are proofed, and checks and balances are in place".
Boards do sign legal declarations confirming the information they provide to be true. It is understood that the ICC would not have yet received the latest data from FC.
FC has applied a right of response, which means it will respond to the allegations to France24 first.