ZIMBABWE has been commended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for its effort to combat match-fixing, but the world governing body of the sport says the criminal networks are still on the prowl in the southern African country – and around the globe – vowing to keep the fixers in check until they are defeated once and for all.
Alex Marshall, head of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit, spoke exclusively to The NewsHawks this week after we published the first part of an investigative piece a fortnight ago, titled “How illegal betting syndicates’ persistent attempts on Zimbabwe helped world cricket’s ongoing cleansing process.”
This fact-finding story has been produced with support from the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ).
In the first of two instalments, we laid bare the illegal bookmakers’ modus operandi in Zimbabwe, how some of the fixers were bust for their corrupt activities in other countries after being reported by Zimbabwean players, how a historic Test match between South Africa and Zimbabwe in 2017 was heavily targeted and the bookies were set up and arrested movie-style at an upmarket hotel in central Harare, amongst other findings.
“We have spent a lot of time in Zimbabwe in recent years,” Marshall, the ICC’s chief detective, told us this week.
“We have a good relationship with ZC (Zimbabwe Cricket) and the Sports minister (Kirsty Coventry), who have been supportive of the work to prevent corruption.”
The former British policeman said awareness campaigns by ICC have played a huge role in getting players in Zimbabwe and elsewhere to report approaches by the syndicates. In fact, the ICC has made it an offence not to report approaches timely.
Players who have breached the rule, which falls under the ICC’s anti-corruption code, have been slapped with bans of varying periods.
“Education is the key tool in protecting everyone in cricket,” Marshall said.
“Players and coaches need to know what to look for and how corrupters operate. Several investigations in Zimbabwe have started because players knew what was suspicious and reported their concerns quickly. This enabled us to prevent players and matches being corrupted.
“We’ve been very impressed with the vast majority of cricketers in Zimbabwe. They have listened to the education and built a high level of trust with us at ICC.”
The ICC and other security authorities are however not dropping guard.
They concede that the international networks of cunning match-fixers are still lurking around everywhere around the world where cricket is played at a level that offers opportunity to be exploited, chiefly in unregulated gambling markets.
“The threat has not gone away, and we should all remain alert to the risks,” stated Marshall.
“Zimbabwe is no different from many other countries in facing this threat. The published cases on our website illustrate the wide range of countries where corrupters have tried to damage sport. They usually fail.”
Newly established tournaments, mainly franchise T20 competitions, continue to be stalked by the illegal bookmakers as traditional old markets increasingly become no-go areas.
“Corrupters always look for vulnerabilities,” said Marshall. “Events and people that might accept money to cheat. In a small number of cases, people have taken money from corrupters and we have published the detail of those cases on our website. Corrupters are still out there, hoping to find players willing to fix. They operate all over the world. The ICC Anti-Corruption Unit works to disrupt these activities and we will go anywhere to stop them. We work with law enforcement and government authorities to disrupt the corrupters’ activities.”
Before joining the ICC in 2017, London-born Marshall was CEO of the College of Policing, the professional body for police in England and Wales.
The 61-year-old began his policing career in 1980, and holds a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Cambridge.