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Sport: Cricket

Volume 721: debated on Tuesday 19 October 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to eradicate corruption from international cricket.

My Lords, allegations of corruption in the game of cricket are a matter for the national and international cricket authorities to investigate, police, and regulate as they deem appropriate. However, we stand ready to help those bodies to combat any threat of corruption where necessary. The Minister for Sport and the Olympics recently met the president of the International Cricket Council and also raised this as an issue at the meeting of Commonwealth sports Ministers in Delhi.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that response. I understand that the International Cricket Council is much better equipped than it used to be thanks, if I may say so, to the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who I am glad to see is in his place. Nevertheless, I understand that the sports Minister in Delhi at the time of the Commonwealth games did not put forward proposals that the noble Lord has in mind because he was advised by officials that that would threaten a Pakistani walkout. What proposals did the sports Minister wish to put forward?

My Lords, I will look with great care. I have a serious brief here but I do not see a list of proposals that were available to be put at that meeting. If they are available, I will endeavour to get them and let the noble Lord know what they are.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that until I retired earlier this year I was chairman of the International Cricket Council anti-corruption unit. Does the Minister agree that the ICC has kept corruption at bay for the past 10 years by having in place the strongest code of conduct for players and officials of any sporting body, and an education programme that all players must go through before they can play international cricket? Does he further agree that, against that background, any player who chooses to betray his country, his teammates and the cricket-loving public, if found guilty of criminal or cricket disciplinary offences, deserves the strongest condemnation and punishment, and that nothing less is necessary if the spirit of cricket is to prevail?

I agree that what I have seen set out about the anti-corruption and security unit of the International Cricket Council is pretty robust. In the end, it is up to the cricket authorities to decide what should happen if allegations are proved. I have made my inquiries as to what it amounts to. At the moment, there is a player education programme run by the ICC. It is one day long, and it covers the current rules, the penalties, the processes involved and how corrupters may seek to groom from an early age. It is letting folk know what is involved. After last week's board meeting, it has been decided that that programme is to be further enhanced.

My Lords, will the Government draw attention to the use that can be made of the legalised betting industry for spotting odds and fluctuations? That information should be passed on from this country to other nations, even when they do not have legalised betting.

My Lords, it is incredible how huge an industry sports gambling is. In this country, we have the Gambling Commission, but it has only been going for three years. There is a limit to what we can do in other places, although it is right that in both the gambling and sports authorities there is international co-operation. Clearly, word can be passed. There are many countries where gambling is not legalised—indeed, it is illegal—and yet takes place on a broad basis. It is very difficult to deal in such matters.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the all-party inquiry into the effects of betting on sport, which reported in 2005, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Condon, was such a powerful and convincing witness. Is the Minister satisfied with the progress which the Gambling Commission’s new unit on sports betting intelligence is making, and is it receiving sufficient co-operation from the betting industry and from sports governing bodies?

My Lords, all I can say is that the Government are very much behind that new work continuing. I am not in a position to say, because I do not know, whether the unit is getting all the co-operation that it should, but I have no evidence that it is not.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is a terrible tragedy when a promising young cricketer has his career ruined by being involved in such practices as corruption? Can he say more about what is being done to help young players to realise what are the penalties for corruption and how it goes totally against the spirit of the game?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that. She is quite right, it is not quite cricket. Although the international cricket authorities are busy doing that work, so is the English cricket board, but it has only just got into this. The ICC is taking the lead, but the English cricket board has a zero tolerance approach to corruption and is fully supporting the ICC's anti-corruption unit. The ECB has recently agreed to enhance its work in this field by establishing an ECB anti-corruption commission for education, security and surveillance. Its work includes extensive education programmes for younger players via the county academies and the development of an online interactive training module which will be ready before the start of the next season. So it is taking the issue seriously and getting on with it for the next cricket season for youngsters.

Perhaps I may revert to what the Minister was saying earlier about gambling, which is clearly at the heart of the problem. The Government—all of us—have to acknowledge that. The Government could do two things. First, there is a loophole in the Gambling Act which allows online operators to move offshore and therefore avoid scrutiny. That is a very important part. Secondly, will the Government regulate spread betting more carefully? Spread betting is another way in which the problem is being increased as it makes it difficult to hold people to account in the way that they used to be.

My Lords, I am the last person in the world to know much about gambling but I take very seriously what the noble Baroness has said, and I will take this matter back to the ministry. The DCMS is there for sport, but it is also there as the regulator of last resort in gambling. I will take those important points back to the Government.