A strong message sent to corruptors

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In 2018 when the International Cricket Council handed an amnesty to the Sri Lankan cricket fraternity to come forward with any information relating to corruption in the game, that had been previously not reported, the administrators were shocked to see rampant corruption within the system. Several attempts were made to address the issue in a bid to keep cricket clean. The most noteworthy of them is to make corruption in sports a crime.

Accordingly, in 2019, through an act of Parliament a legislation was passed. It was called ‘Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports’. It was a major breakthrough as Sri Lanka became the first cricket playing nation in Asia to criminalize corruption in the game. A special police unit was established at Sugathadasa Stadium to report, investigate and take action to prevent corruption in sports.

As a result, several individuals, including players have been charged and even arrested. The latest of them is the owner of Dambulla Thunder franchise Tamim Rahman, who was arrested when he was about to board a flight at Katunayake.

The Lanka Premier League may have received a massive blow following the termination of the contract of Dambulla franchise, but what is more important is to keep cricket clean.

This arrest will send all individuals a strong message that there’s no room in the game for corruption. If you approach individuals to get involved in foul play, it will be reported and corruptors face prison terms.

T-20 franchise cricket has ushered in big money for players. Cricketers make a comfortable living thanks to T-20 cricket. However, there are also dangers with individuals with shady backgrounds beginning to own teams and call shots. Although there’s lot of vetting that’s going around on team owners to keep the game clean, individuals seem to go through loopholes. This is where having laws to prevent corruption comes in handy. People are now aware that they will face the full force of the law if they try to engage in foul play.

The police unit at Sugathadasa needs to be strengthened no doubt. For police officers who are dealing with criminals who deal with drugs, robberies and other nefarious activities, corruption in sports is something new. It is a learning process for them since these are early days but rest assured that they will become a professional unit.

Sri Lanka Cricket for several years have had an Anti-Corruption official keeping a close eye on professional cricket. This used to be a retired police officer, but currently there is a unit that is overlooking things and they do co-ordination with the police to make sure that the game is clean.

Former British Police officer Alex Marshall has made the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit a vibrant force. Since he took over the unit, a record number of players have been charged, many have been banned and some have even ended up in prison. As a result, cricket remains clean.

The methods Marshall has used – like providing amenities for players to report approaches – has stood the game in good stead.

With cricket expanding to franchises due to T-20 leagues, there are many individuals who need to be kept an eye on. The corruption scandal that broke out in March 2000 with South African captain Hansie Cronje admitting to corruption and several international players being banned sent shockwaves in cricket circles. The public lost trust in cricket. The game suffered severe setbacks with sponsors pulling out and parents not wanting their children to play the beautiful game. The game can’t afford another setback like that.

That is why the Anti-Corruption arm of cricket needs to be strong and vibrant. That only will make cricket clean.