Cricket’s anti-corruption police have taken the unique step of warning suspected fixers against travelling to England for the World Cup as they launch their biggest ever protection operation.
As well as posting anti-corruption officers with each of the ten teams for the first time, the International Cricket Council has also used legal warnings to persuade known corrupters not to travel to the tournament and have also passed on their details to the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency.
In addition to the ten officers billeted with the teams, the anti-corruption unit will also have two investigators and one evidence analyst on duty during the 48 match, six and a half week tournament which starts when England play South Africa at the Oval on May 27.
The ICC has contacted the suspected corrupters through solicitors and warned them they will be thrown out of grounds if they are spotted at a match.
Next week the ICC will start briefing the playing squads and backroom teams showing them images of known corrupters so they can report them to the authorities. The ICC are confident the World Cup will be clean and poses a low risk due to the extra security put in place.
However, it would be hugely damaging for the game if its principal white ball event, which attracted a broadcast audience of 2.2billion for the 2011 final alone, were to be hit by a fixing scandal or sting.
“Badly run events attract the corrupters and they look for vulnerabilities in events and players but the World Cup is highly organised, well run, well governed and the players are well protected so we expect it to be clean,” Alex Marshall, the general manager of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, told Telegraph Sport.
“We will be at the hotels, at the grounds, we be available to the players all the time and we have good relationships with all the squads. The team management and coaches are well briefed on the current threats so in terms of having a strong structure, the tournament is in a good place
“But the risk is the corrupters know this is a massively high yield if they were to succeed however their chances of succeeding are very low and it is very risky. Whereas if they went for a chaotic T20 competition somewhere else then the risks to them would be much lower and they are more likely to succeed, even though the yield would not be as high. Overall we are expecting to have a very low profile throughout the World Cup unless something occurs.”
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The ICC’s focus these days has shifted from cricketers to the corrupters themselves, largely trying to prevent fixing from happening in the first place by blocking access to playing staff and educating them about the methods of approach used by bookies and corrupt gangs.
They have fewer concerns about international cricket these days than in the past and are confident it is clean with the fixers now concentrating on the many Twenty20 leagues springing up around the world where anti-corruption procedures can be flimsy, or non-existent, and access to players relatively straightforward.
The ICC is still locked in a deep investigation into corruption allegations within Sri Lankan cricket that is expecting to drag on until the end of the year.
Last week the ICC charged the Sri Lankan team analyst with corruption offences, after he was reported to the board by the government’s sports minister. More charges against different individuals are expected later this summer.