On Tuesday, Business Day revealed that “a legal case is being prepared against a significant number of domestic players for corruption during the recent domestic Twenty20 tournament.” While the fact that there has been an attempt to fix matches in South Africa’s domestic T20 competition is not news, that there is a legal case pending is newsworthy. The person involved is understood to have played international cricket for South Africa.
Last year, Cricket South Africa said that they had charged an “intermediary” under its anti-corruption code, and suspended him from all cricket-related activities. The person involved has also been charged with “failing, or refusing without compelling justification, to cooperate with an investigation carried out by an anti-corruption official.”
With the news now confirmed that it was indeed a player – one who has represented South Africa – the interest in the case has spiked. However, it is important to understand the context of the investigation and what the due process will most likely be.
Fixing is actually common and often difficult to detect
Firstly, it is understood that what took place was not match-fixing – ie a group of players conspiring to throw an entire match. It is understood that it was a case of spot-fixing, something which is actually more common than most cricket fans are aware, and it happens in almost every domestic T20 league in the world. It involves bowlers either conceding a certain number of runs in an over, or a batsmen scoring under a certain amount of runs an over. This is easily done, and it happens far more frequently than you might think. These incidents, especially on a relatively small scale, are rarely detected and Cricket South Africa (CSA) have done exceptionally well to uncover what is usually an incredibly organised operation. Resources for fighting against corruption in cricket is also severely strained, adding to the difficulty of catching crooks.
Prison time is likely
As was the case with the three Pakistan cricketers who were jailed for their role in spot-fixing during a match at Lord’s in 2010, the legal case will be built around corruption and the intention to defraud. Make no mistake, CSA will try to make an example of the guilty. Jail time for being found guilty of corruption in South Africa carries a jail term of up to 15 years for amounts of over R1 million, but it is unlikely that such a large sum of money was involved.
The country’s Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act Law was first instated in 2004 and had what is known as a “Hansie Clause” written into it. This directly relates to corruption in sport and is named after Hansie Cronje, who was banned from cricket for life in 2000 for his part in match fixing. However, circumstances might play a role in softening the sentence if the player charged can plead that he was either blackmailed or unaware of what exactly was being asked of him. Blackmail in cases such as these is not uncommon. A player might have been involved in spot fixing once, and when he tried to get out of it when approached a second or third time, there would have been no way out.
Easy money is also a reason for players to resort to spot-fixing, the sums they can make for a bit of “tweaking” of play are fairly significant and, some will argue, the action rarely has a direct impact on the result as the brackets of runs scored or conceded are often marginal, in order for them not to be predicted.
There is more than one player involved
It is understood that the SA operation involved more than one player. The leader of the operation, who most likely served as the link between the fixing mafia and the players, is the person likely to receive the most severe punishment.
“Failing to report suspicious activity” can also be charged under the anti-corruption code and will carry a possible ban from the sport. Outside of that, however, building a legal case might be tricky. One of the accused has already been suspended from cricket and only a handful of players fit the criteria of being a former international who has not played any matches since the T20 tournament. It is, however, important to not rush to any conclusions too quickly.
The players cannot be named; it might risk compromising the investigation
At this stage, Cricket South Africa and the others involved in the investigation cannot name any of the players under investigation. It is policy across the board when it comes to corruption in cricket that those who are being investigated are not named while an investigation is still ongoing. It is likely that names will only be released once the case goes to trial.
“Ex-international” does not necessarily mean “well-known”
The news that spread focussed heavily on the fact that the so-called ringleader was a former international. That does not mean he is a well-known player or even a seasoned international. The player might have only represented South Africa in a handful of matches, many years ago. DM
Photo by Reuters.
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