Sport

Spot fixing – and the need for a Players’ Association in India

By Ant Sims 20 May 2013

Every man and his dog has reacted to the spot-fixing saga which rocked the IPL. Everybody has promised stricter security and ruthlessness when dealing with the perpetrators. But what about the players and their well-being? By ANT SIMS.

Cricket will always be a tender spot for those who really live it. And now, just like when Hansie Cronje broke down and dropped his bombshell all those years ago, many people believe the game is at a crossroads.

Whether it’s a corrupt board sticking their fingers various pies or whether it’s a few individuals taking dirty money, cricket is riddled with threats. And while it’s unlikely that those threats will ever be eliminated in their entirety, it’s important that they are restricted.

Just a few days after three IPL players were arrested on allegations of spot fixing, with the Delhi police claiming more arrests are imminent and the lid has been blown off a massive racket, the BCCI acted swiftly and decisively.

The BCCI on Sunday revealed that an accreditation process would be put in place for player agents. For the business end of the IPL, every team will be given its very own Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) officer.

The assigned officer will stay with the team, travel with them and work alongside the security in charge to help pick up anything dodgy. Of course, the official won’t be reading the every single player’s text messages and e-mails, but one can hope the presence serves as a deterrent.

The BCCI called an emergency working committee on Monday, and after assessing and dissecting anti-corruption measures with special invitees ACSU chief Ravi Sawani and his ICC counterpart, YP Singh, the board announced a number of measures to prevent further corruption.

Sawani will head the commission of inquiry into the allegations against the three players and revealed that he had a productive meeting and discussion with police officials on Monday.

“I had a very useful meeting with the Delhi Commissioner of Police,” he said after the meeting. “The BCCI has assured him of cooperation in the case. I also told him of Rajasthan Royals’ intention to file an FIR in the case.”

The Rajasthan Royals, the franchise the three accused players play for, has decided to press charges against the accused, while the BCCI won’t.

“We are advised that the BCCI by itself cannot because they (the players) are contracted to the franchise; the franchise is filing,” BCCI president N Srinivasan said on Sunday.

In a statement issued by Royals on Sunday, the franchise said they would file FIRs to help the police carry out the investigation.

“It is critical that this evil is rooted out of the game, and as such we will be filing FIRs with the Delhi Police. This will ensure that justice is pursued to its most complete end, and that the police are able to appropriately conduct their investigation.”

The BCCI president also admitted that the ACSU remained somewhat limited in putting a lid on corruption in cricket. Unlike police, they can’t tap phones and have limited access to other methods of information gathering.

“Not being a police organisation, we are handicapped when it comes to control over bookies,” said the BCCI president.

Betting on anything other than horse racing is illegal in India, and the saga has prompted India’s law minister Kapil Sibal and sports Minister Jitendra Singh to ponder a new bill to be introduced to combat the problem. The pair have been studying the way betting is dealt with in the United Kingdom and Australia, and this information will be shared with the Law Ministry in the next session of Indian Parliament.

The one important thing which has not yet been mentioned in all of the discussions is the need for a players’ association in India. These associations champions players’ rights and are the go-to contact for everything from suspected corruption to depression. It’s one thing to do damage control and restrict potential damage, but equally important is the need to educate and remind players of their responsibility to the game and its code.

The reaction from the powers that be has been admirable, and while many will scoff at their attempts to ensure the game is kept clean, there remains a lack of understanding for the simple needs of players.

Aside from dealing with education surrounding corruption, who to talk to when something dodgy crops up and everything involving the latest saga, these associations also help players understand depression, their rights in terms of payment and everything else which any good trade union from any other industry would help their employees with.

Players’ Associations certainly aren’t all moonshine and roses, but they do serve as a mediator between those in charge and those who play the game. It is imperative that on the back of this scandal, India seriously reassesses its need for such an organisation. It might not be the saviour of the future of the sport, but it could be the saviour of some players. DM

Photo: Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold a placard and posters of former India test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth during a protest in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad May 16, 2013. Sreesanth and two other players have been arrested by Delhi police on suspicion of spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League, sports officials said on Thursday. REUTERS/Amit Dave

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"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall

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