The last fortnight has saw three players from Hong Kong charged with breaching the ICC anti-corruption code for matches played some years ago in Hong Kong’s world cup qualifying campaign for the 2015 world cup. It’s a certainly a problem at the lower levels of the sport with a combination of poor players salaries at the Associate nations level (the level below test status), less spotlight on the lower level matches with regards to TV audience and media coverage and the popularity of in-play betting on the Betfair exchange on any live cricket.
Crickets international players now are multi-millionaires due to the rise in TV money and the incredibly lucrative 20/20 competitions taking place around the world such as the IPL and the Big Bash where players earn colossal sums of money for a month or two’s work and have no interest in the lure of a bookmaker or betting syndicate offering money to influence the outcome of a game. At the next tier down in relatively poor economic cricketing nations the risk/reward of the money that can be earned from underperforming, which far exceeds the sums earned from their respective cricket boards makes the proposition far more attractive to these players.
It’s a problem that has similarities with tennis, where there is a massive disparity between the players at the highest level on the ATP tour who earn excellent money from playing the game as well as sponsorship deals which enable them to earn an excellent living and again makes the lure of match-fixing seem an unnecessary risk for them. As with cricket, it is the next level down on the Challenger tour (players aspiring to make ATP level) that the ingredients are there for match—fixing to become a problem.
In this instance the risk/reward is even more prevalent with Challenger players regularly out of pocket due to running costs of travel, hotel fees and tournament entry making the prospect of good money to throw a game more alluring as well as the fact that the matches are played in pretty much empty arenas and minimal to no media exposure on their matches.
Cricket is potentially one of the most attractive sports for match-fixing to occur. There is a common misconception that all match-fixing is based on the result of a match. Cricket has plenty of sub-markets such as the number of runs scored in the first 6, 10 or 15 overs of a match. Players could very easily influence this specific area of a match by not scoring heavily in this bracket of a match – but very easily go on to play a match defining innings that can still win a match for his side and as such make under-performing difficult to detect.
It adds another fine reason why the ICC should look to promote and financially back the less affluent countries in cricket to strengthen and build the game at the lower levels but also to keep the sport as clean as it can be.
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