x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

ICC official says World Cup will be corruption-free

Haroon Lorgat expects tournament to be a corruption-free affair in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal.

Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), says he is confident the World Cup will be free from corruption in the wake of the punishments handed out to three Pakistan players found guilty of spot-fixing.

Salman Butt, the former captain, was banned for 10 years for his part in manipulating aspects of the Lord's Test match against England last summer, five years of which is a suspended sentence.

Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, the bowlers, were suspended for seven and five years after being found guilty of breaching the ICC's anti-corruption code.

The controversy has cast a shadow over the build-up to the game's flagship one-day international competition.

"I am confident [the World Cup will be free from corruption] for two reasons," Lorgat said.

"The main one is that the vast majority of players are honest players. They do play the game in the spirit that it should be played. They are not seeking to make gains out of untoward means.

"Secondly, we are alive to what could come to the fore in terms of corruption. We have measures in place, and people forget we had been tracking this long before the News of the World had broken the story.

"I am satisfied we will have measures in place at the World Cup. We will increase capacity because we realise things do change."

Lorgat said that the ICC had increased the number of staff detailed to police corruption in the game since the scandal broke during the Lord's Test in August, and that they were now "more vigilant around leads we pick up".

He also revealed that the ICC have had discussions about recommending the Indian government legalise gambling on sport.

The illegal gambling industry in Asia has been estimated to be worth as much as US$450 billion (Dh1,650bn) per year.

Supporters of the call to legalise it believe the regulation of bookmakers would make policing corruption in cricket more manageable.

"I agree with the notion that if it is regulated it is a lot better than if it is not regulated," he said. "We have made inquiries, and these are the things we are working towards."

Lorgat spoke publicly about the verdict for the first time yesterday, and insisted the sanctions meted out were severe enough. While the investigation was ongoing, Lorgat regularly reiterated the governing body's "zero-tolerance" approach to those found involved in corruption in the game.

Most took that to mean life bans for those found guilty, and therefore assumed the ICC would view the fact the bans amounted to little more than minimum sentences, as per their code of conduct, as disappointing. Lorgat, however, is certain the sanctions will deter players in future.

"I think it would take someone very brave not to take heed of what has happened," he said.

"I don't think these punishments are lenient by any stretch of the imagination. In legal terms, you have to be proportionate when you mete out punishment. We must distinguish between match-fixing and spot-fixing.

"This is a very experienced group of judges. They have enormous experience and expertise and they are independent. They have applied their minds and decided on what is a proportionate sanction."

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the chairman of the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), also insisted the punishment given to the three Pakistan players was severe.

"So far as the ACSU is concerned, we make sure through our education programmes that players do know their responsibilities in that respect," he said. "When they fall below the standard expected of them, we exhibit zero tolerance in investigating that, gathering the evidence and presenting that evidence, as has happened here."