Update: match fixing rearing its ugly head again

By 10th February 2020 General News

Introduction:

It is nearly ten years since the match fixing scandal involving Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir stunned the cricket world.[1] It therefore comes with great sadness to fans of the game that Nasir Jamshed, former Pakistani cricketer, was sentenced last Friday at Manchester Crown Court for his part in a spot-fixing scandal. It is a case that serves as a timely reminder to the sport that the threat of corruption is very much alive despite considerable work that has been undertaken by the International Cricket Council (‘ICC’) along with law enforcement agencies around the world.

The three defendants were:

  • Yousef Anwar;
  • Mohammed Ijaz; and
  • Nasir Jamshed.

The case stemmed from an investigation by the National Crime Agency (‘NCA’). It is worth noting from the outset that Mr Jamshed was banned from cricket by the Pakistan Cricket Board for 10 years in relation to these events.[2]

Background:

With the use of an undercover officer, the NCA identified that these men were plotting to fix elements of the 2016 Bangladesh Premier League T20 tournament. A tournament in which Mr Jamshed was going to be playing. Mr Anwar and Mr Ijaz developed a system by which they would identify a professional player willing to partake in an agreed fix. The player would signal at the start of the match whether the fix was still on. The NCA have released a statement which explained that these defendants would usually charge £30,000 per fix with half the sum going to the player.[3]

In 2017, the defendants made plans to fix Pakistan Super League (‘PSL’) matches that were being played in Dubai. In February 2017 Mr Anwar flew to Dubai to meet with other professional players, including Khalid Latif and Sharjeel Khan, Islamabad United teammates, who agreed take part in a plan to corrupt elements of a game. Before flying to Dubai, Mr Anwar was spotted on CCTV purchasing 28 different coloured cricket bat handle grips from a shop in St Albans where he gave Mr Ijaz’s name and address for the receipt. These would subsequently be used by the players as the signal to show the fix was going ahead.[4]

On 9 February 2017 the PSL fixture between Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi was played in Dubai. Despite Mr Latif originally agreeing to the fix, it was Mr Khan who went to the crease displaying the pre-agreed signal. He then carried out the fix, playing two dot balls in the first two balls of the second over, before getting out leg before wicket for 0 in the third ball of that over.[5]

The sentence:

All three of the defendants received immediate custodial sentences. Mr Jamshed was sentenced to 17 months in custody. Mr Anwar, 3 years and 4 months. Mr Ijaz, 2 years and 6 months.

Concluding remarks:

His Honour Judge Richard Mansell QC noted in his sentencing remarks that, “[b]y far the most insidious consequence of these offences is the undermining of public confidence in the integrity of the sporting contest, not simply in the individual match directly affected but in the game of cricket generally.[6]

It is worth reflecting on the sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Cooke back in 2011 in the case involving Mr Butt, Mr Asif and Mr Amir, where he stated, “‘[i]t’s not cricket’ was an adage. It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it that make the offences so serious.[7]

The theme is clear. Such events have an incredibly damaging impact on the game as they would on any business or corporate organisation, and sport is no different in this regard, particularly as the distinction between certain sports and business becomes more diminished. Sport is reliant on its fan base and nothing could be unhealthier for sport than the fans not having the utmost faith in the outcomes that are taking place on the pitch. Sadly, when corruption in sport takes place, that faith is severely tested.

As noted, this is not simply a sport specific problem. Look at governments and businesses around the world. The banking sector, for example, still struggles with the cloud of scepticism that hangs over it since the 2007/08 financial crisis. The same can be said with MP’s in this country since the expenses scandal first broke in 2009. A number of current MPs were not even politicians at the time, yet there is still this deep mistrust in relation to politicians that almost certainly stems from the scandal.

Business and sport can learn a lot from each other. It only takes one rotten apple within the industry to lead to widespread distrust which inevitably has an impact on success/performance and importantly for some, profit.

It is for these reasons the ICC invests significant time, energy and resources in trying to stamp it out. However, with the ever-increasing number of franchise tournaments that are taking place around the world, it is clear that this is an ongoing task for the game’s governing body.

For many, the sadness will be that Mr Jamshed had quite evidently not learned from the case of Mr Butt, Mr Asif and Mr Amir. The words of Mr Jamshed’s wife which she published on her twitter account soon after the sentence are moving; “Nasir could have had a bright future, had he worked hard and been committed to the sport that gave him so much, but he took a short cut and lost everything, his career, status, respect and freedom.[8] Those considering taking part in such activities should take note of these powerful words.

[1] BBC News, “Salman Butt and Pakistan bowlers jailed for no-ball plot.” 03.11.2011.
[2] BBC Sport, “Nasir Jamshed: Ex-Pakistan opener banned for 10 years over spot-fixing”. 17.08.2018.
[3] NCA, “International cricket match fixers and ex-player jailed”. 07.02.2020.
[4] NCA, “International cricket match fixers and ex-player jailed”. 07.02.2020.
[5] NCA, “International cricket match fixers and ex-player jailed”. 07.02.2020.
[6] The Guardian, “Former Pakistan cricketer Nasir Jamshed jailed over fixing scandal.” 08.02.2020.
[7] BBC News, “Salman Butt and Pakistan bowlers jailed for no-ball plot.” 03.11.2011.
[8] The Guardian, “Former Pakistan cricketer Nasir Jamshed jailed over fixing scandal.” 08.02.2020.

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