PSL Scandal: Spot-Fixing and Corruption in Cricket

In 2000, cricket changed forever when South African Hansie Cronje was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal. This sport took a huge hit, as did professional sport on the whole. By 2010 that scandal was all but a distant memory, and then the Pakistan spot-fixing scandal hit the headlines and cricket was rocked once more. Players like Butt, Asif and Aamer were all caught-up in the scandal. They all faced bans and fans and players worldwide were hoping that was the end of it. But as recent news has shown, we could be witnessing the start of another huge scandal.

The PSL Scandal

The aforementioned spot-fixing scandal was unearthed by Scotland Yard. But in February 2017, a Pakistan investigation was launched into their own professional cricket league, the PSL. Shareel Khan and Khalid Latif were both suspended provisionally by the Pakistan Cricket Board as they conducted an investigation. Most likely related to spot-fixing, the board stated that this suspension was conducted as a way of halting an “international syndicate” trying to “corrupt the Pakistan Cricket League”. These words are ominous for any player and any league. Shareel Khan recently signed for Leicestershire to play in England, and the words “international syndicate” suggest that the effects could be far reaching. In other words, this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg and while we’re still in the early stages, if the PCB manage to crack that iceberg and reveal what’s going on underneath, then the face of international cricket could change forever.

What is Spot Fixing?

There are many illegal activities that could result in a modern sports professional biting the headlines for all of the wrong reasons. The most extreme of these is ”match-fixing”. This is as the name would suggest. It involves a player, a team or a manager intentionally losing a game. They can do this either by changing the outcome of certain decisions or by making catastrophic mistakes. One of the lesser corruptions often making the news is illegal betting. At worst, this involves the players betting on their own games and often intentionally affecting the outcome so their bets will succeed. But many sports stars have also been suspended or warned simply for betting on other games that they have no influence in (an activity that is illegal in most sports). Sport fixing is somewhere in between those. It is something that is harder to spot, something that doesn’t necessarily effect the outcome of a game, but something that still makes a lot of money for organized criminals. Where match fixing involves throwing entire games so that the “Win-Lose” markets and other major markets can be altered favorable, spot-fixing involves making minor mistakes or doing seemingly insignificant things during a game so that smaller, more niche markets are affected. For instance, you may have noticed that some cricket betting markets allow you to bet on there being a “no-ball” during a specific over. It is incredibly easy for the bowler to throw a no ball, and no one pays attention when they do. So, the fixers will essentially agree an over beforehand, the bowler will throw the no-ball, everyone will collect and no one will be any the wiser. Or at least, that’s the theory. Because eventually, as proved by the glut of recent scandals that have damaged the integrity of the game, everyone gets caught.

Is This a Global Issue?

Not only is this something that is happening across the world, but it’s something that is happening across all sports. Thanks to betting exchanges in Europe and Asia, millions of dollars are won and lost on single matches everyday. And these matches don’t need to be big internationals, as lower league games are also gambled on every single day. As a result, we get a scenario whereby lower league players are earning just a few hundred dollars per game, yet millions are being gambled on that game. So, the gamblers offer them bribes, the players take it as an offer they can’t refuse, and a crime has been committed. From there, the gamblers get more money, they have more of an influence, and they take that influence to the higher leagues. Many leading sports stars have come forward to say that they have been approached in such a manner. One of them, snooker player John Higgins, was even filmed discussing such a bribe. And when you consider that Higgins is one of the legends of his sport, that’s quite scary. It’s akin to someone like Brian Lara agreeing to spot-fixes. The good news, however, is that many of the higher leagues and bigger players are unlikely to be affected. Only so much money can be placed on these niche betting market before people get suspicious. And when there is a ceiling on the profit they can make, and the players at the top are earning millions, it’s unlikely they will be able to afford a bribe big enough to entice them. The law is also clamping down on such activities. The technology used to detect suspicious betting activity is better than ever, and once that activity has been picked up, then it will be traced back to the players. Basically, even something as seemingly anonymous as spot fixing has become far too risky and that should ensure that the game undoes the damage these scandals have caused and gets right back on track.

What Are the Repercussions?

If players are found to be fixing games in any way, then their careers will be jeopardized and they could face serious legal action. What’s more, if the PCB are able to get incriminating information on Khan and Latif, then there’s a good chance they’ll disclose everyone else involved. That could open up a whole spectrum of players, mangers and other backroom staff, not to mention the people doing the betting and the organizing. If that happens, then it’s not just cricket that will be affected. However, it’s more likely that a few suspensions will be handed out, a few stories will hit the headlines, and then everything will blow over. That seems to be the way that these things work. We’re not suggesting for a minute that everyone is corrupt and covering it up, but rather that these issues are so endemic and so deeply ingrained, they have a way of sustaining themselves and avoiding the law. The good news is that gamblers need not worry. There are no concerns with regards to match-fixing, so your bets are safe in that regard. In fact, if you play the exchanges then you may even be able to spot, predict and profit from these “spot-fixes” yourself. Anyone who plays the exchanges regularly can spot when there is a sudden influx of money on markets that usually run dry. And when this happens, it typically means that something nefarious at play. In other words, it adds a whole new dimension to cricket betting and tipping. So, if you’re struggling to predict the winners and the losers, then maybe it’s time to predict the schemers and the fixers