Senior figures in world cricket have warned of the growing threat of corruption within the “vulnerable” women’s game, with an explosion in interest making it more attractive to fixers.
The warnings come in the wake of a successful World Cup and as England prepare in Australia for the Women’s Ashes, which begins on 22 October. Tony Irish, the chief executive of international cricket’s players’ association warned that the women’s game was particularly at risk.
“Women’s cricket is receiving more attention and is more and more on TV so it is likely to be targeted,” Irish said, expressing concern about how the quality of anti-corruption measures differs between nations. “As with the men’s game there are very different standards of anti-corruption education received by women across the world.”
In July, the Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s had £78m traded on it on Betfair – 8.5 times more than the 2013 final. More than 150 different operators worldwide offered betting markets for the tournament, according to sports data company Sportradar. So far in 2017, the sums bets on women’s cricket with Ladbrokes are 43% greater than in all of 2016, with the Ashes still to come. Industry insiders have highlighted how the extra liquidity in betting markets for women’s cricket is creating potential opportunities for corruptors.
Irish called on the International Cricket Council to do more to safeguard the integrity of the sport for both genders. “There is no global education programme for players, either men or women, and not much appetite from the ICC to introduce one. That’s a huge concern for us, especially with more and more men and women moving around the world playing in different domestic competitions.”
The ICC’s anti-corruption unit is in charge of monitoring international cricket across both genders, and was an active presence at the Women’s World Cup. But national anti-corruption units are in charge of monitoring domestic matches, as well as providing education to players who have yet to play for their national teams. It is felt that the attention different nations pay to these requirements, in both men’s and women’s cricket, still varies considerably.
Alex Marshall, general manager of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, said that the governing body was aware that the growing interest in women’s cricket has increased the risk of corruption. “We need to be alert to the fact that individuals, matches or tournaments may be seen as corruptible and continue to work with members to educate, prevent and where necessary disrupt and prosecute any criminal behaviour.”
Authorities have not yet uncovered any evidence of international women cricketers being approached. But the ICC believes that a greater emphasis on policing the sport is necessary to keep the women’s game free from the corruption scandals that continue to blight men’s cricket.
The anti-corruption unit’s international education programme is currently being revised. The new programme will emphasise education specifically tailored for men and women, as well as people of different cultures, languages and ages. Some international women’s cricketers have previously noted that their anti-corruption training was clearly imported wholesale from the men’s game, showing a lack of awareness of different circumstances – such as pay and incentives.
Clare Connor, the director of England Women’s Cricket, admitted that the sport’s growth has brought new fears about corruption. “The women’s game, with more televised games than ever before and with the vast majority of players not yet earning significant sums of money, is likely to be a target for match-fixers,” she said.
Beyond Australia, England and, after their progress to the World Cup final, India, many international players from other major cricket nations are lowly paid, often supplementing their cricket incomes with other jobs. High profile matches involving players who earn relatively small amounts are regarded as prime target for fixers. “Education and raising awareness are clearly key to guarding against it: ensuring players are clued up, switched on, aware of the dangers,” Connor added.
In England, all men and women playing domestic cricket must complete the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s anti-corruption online module before they can be registered to play. Before next season, the PCA will roll out a new module for all male and female players in the professional game in England and Wales.
In Australia, the board noted a significant increase in the popularity of the Women’s Big Bash with regulated betting operators last season. For the new season, across domestic and international matches in both genders, Cricket Australia has introduced a new mobile app for players and officials, which includes anti-corruption education and a new way for players to report any suspected approaches.