ICC’s anti-corruption boss likens grooming tactics of cricket corrupters to paedophiles

The head of world cricket’s anti-corruption and security unit Sir Ronnie Flanagan has likened criminals who lure cricketers into illegal activity to  paedophiles grooming their victims.
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Just over a week before the  World Cup begins, the ICC has outlined security measures that  it believes will ensure the tournament is free from corruption and the threat of corruption.

The ICC has handed a “watch list” – featuring the names of 100 corrupters – to law enforcement agencies in Australia and New Zealand who are banned from entering the World Cup venues. Players and officials from the 14 competing nations will be shown videos this weekend reminding them of their obligations to report suspicious corruption-related behaviour.

Flanagan, a retired senior British police officer, said the ICC had seen a “100 per cent increase” in reports by players, many of whom  are innocent, in the past three years. The video includes a message from Flanagan, other international players and at least one disgraced player, who urges today’s stars not to make the same mistake he did. The disgraced player is not former Pakistan seamer and spot-fixer Mohammad Amir, who  last week was cleared by the ICC to return to domestic cricket.

Flanagan has told players they have the trust of the ICC’s ACSU but warns them of “rotten” criminal elements who “do all in their power to get at players” and officials.

“They’ll trick them, coerce them, try and attract them, they’re almost like paedophiles in how they attempt to groom people into ultimately doing what suits their nefarious intentions in terms of illegal betting and other elements of criminality,” Flanagan said.

“I’m certain the players, match officials and support staff will be working very carefully in support of what we do and we’ll work in partnership to ensure  [criminals] never get their way in this tournament.”

The ICC signed in August 2013 a memorandum of understanding with Australian Federal Police in their fight against corruption at the World Cup.

Fraud detection providers Sportradar have been hired to monitor betting on regulated markets. Analysts will  trawl through social media looking for  approaches  to players.

Security staff  have also been briefed to watch out for “pitchsiders”, the term given to fans who attend matches live and capitalise on the TV delay to either bet or pass on information to bookmakers.

Although pitchsiders do not influence results, the ICC believe it is a threat to the integrity of the game as “it feeds into wider and more sophisticated network of illegal betting”, Flanagan said.

“That’s where there is a risk of it being a minor contagion.”

Pitchsiding is not illegal but Flanagan said pitchsiders can be ejected and banned from World Cup venues for breaching the terms and conditions of entry, which is what happened to a British national during this summer’s Big Bash League.

Fairfax Media has been told pitchsiders apprehended by security staff are often tight-lipped, but the ICC has gleaned enough information to believe their interventions have disrupted the business of illegal bookmakers and gambling syndicates.

“The disruption we bring about from that multiplies. The people whom they will be talking to will be talking to other people,” Flanagan said.

“We’ve had instances after the removal of one person where we know the messages are coming: “Where has he gone? What has happened to the commentary?”.

Flanagan said the intelligence gathered by cricket’s anti-corruption fighters would be shared among other sports.

“I’m certain these bad guys don’t put themselves in pigeonholes and say I only deal with cricket, tennis or snooker,” Flanagan said.

“The same people will be seeking to be in operation wherever they can make money. It’s important all sports keep in close contact with each other.’

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