Big Bash League clubs and players have been reminded of their responsibilities and processes under Cricket Australia’s anti-corruption measures even as the governing body’s chief executive James Sutherland poured further cold water on allegations of potential spot-fixing relationships in the game in Australia.
Following a report in The Sun on the first morning of the Perth Test match, the ICC’s anti-corruption chief Alex Marshall briefed Sutherland and ECB chief executive Tom Harrison on the material passed on from the newspaper to the ACU, and Australian players were also briefed on the first evening of the match. Sutherland said he had subsequently spoken several times more to Marshall, while all BBL teams had received the strong message that CA wanted the competition to be “the biggest, best and cleanest sports league in the country, if not the world”.
CA has not been advised of whether or not any Australian players will be interviewed as part of the ICC’s investigation. “We’ve taken the opportunity to reiterate a few things with everyone, just to understand various processes, responsibilities and our very clear aspiration is we want the Big Bash League to be the biggest and the best and the cleanest sports league in the country, if not the world,” Sutherland said in Melbourne. “Certainly from our perspective that’s why we have such high standards around anti-corruption, security and we’ll stop at nothing to keep reinforcing our zero tolerance approach.
“What we saw was a bit of a scattergun, mud-slinging sort of exercise from people who would appear to be boasting about people they know when they perhaps really don’t know them. From there, that’s not to say anything in there should be underestimated. It’s beholden on ICC in particular and we’ll co-operate as best we can as well – to work out whether there’s anything credible in those allegations. But until you get to any sort of belief or feeling that there’s anything credible in there, you’re not really going anywhere and you don’t get into any sort of serious in-depth investigation.
“I don’t know the details of their process and how they’ll go about it – and I don’t think it’s something I need to get particularly involved with. But sort of – all I would say is we’ve given with the trust, to the ICC and the anti-corruption unit. Alex leads that and I’ve got great confidence in him and his team and their ability to work through it as appropriate. I’ve had two or three chats with [Marshall] since then. His initial judgment has only been reaffirmed by any work that he’s done since – I think that’s fair to say.”
Concurrent to the BBL is the Women’s Big Bash League, the flagship Twenty20 tournament of the women’s game that has grown exponentially in professionalism and success in the past few years. The recent graduation of women’s cricket in Australia to full professionalism and far better wages helped remove one of the key risk factors for corruption – underpaid players – but Sutherland said that either way he would be surprised to see any players getting involved in spot-fixing at a time when the game was growing so much.
“I know there has always been a theory that where there are lower wages, there is greater susceptibility to corruption,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s true with the Women’s Big Bash League. What we know and understand there are serious consequences and we – Cricket Australia and ICC – are absolutely committed to ensuring those consequences play out properly.
“And with what’s happening in women’s cricket right now, why on earth would you want to take the risk? These women are part of something special – the wave of support, enthusiasm and growth in the WBBL is outstanding. You just wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of that – or put yourself in a position to be banned for two years, five years or whatever it might be.”
Sutherland said he had been annoyed by the timing of the allegations, in the hours before the start of what turned out to be the pivotal match of the Ashes series, compelling him to go into the Australian team “bubble” to address the allegations. “It was pretty annoying,” he said. “It seemed to be a major distraction and nothing much more than an attempt to bring down – or discredit – an Ashes Test match. We were about to start the third and a very important Test match of the summer. It was pleasing the ICC were able to do their review as quickly as they did to make some initial judgment and I think everyone responded pretty confidently off the back of that.”
“[The team] are a bit in the bubble and certainly very focused on that. I think we all know and understand that once they’re in game mode it’s very difficult to get them to vary from that. They’re fine and in fact the way it unfolded, it was almost like the issue had gone by the end of the Test match. And I spoke to them briefly during the Test match and it was always like ‘well we didn’t even know anything about that’ but just in case – I gave them a bit of a briefing on it.”
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