Corruption in cricket must be eradicated

First published in News

Corruption in cricket must be eradicated to enable the game to survive as a “truly competitive sport”, the country’s top judge stressed today.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge sent out his hard-hitting message as he rejected challenges against “spot-fixing” convictions by a cricketer and a sports agent.

Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield - the first county cricketer in England to be prosecuted for spot-fixing - and Mazhar Majeed, 36, from Croydon, south London, were jailed in separate cases.

They claimed their prosecutions were legally flawed, but Lord Judge, sitting with two other judges at the Court of Appeal in London, ruled that their convictions were safe.

Lord Judge said: “These otherwise unconnected appeals against conviction arise in the same notorious context, ‘spot fixing’ in cricket matches.

”For cricket betting is not new. It has, however, become multi-faceted.

”Nowadays it is possible to place bets not only on the final outcome of a match, but on particular passages of play, such as how many runs will be scored or wickets taken in an over, or indeed on individual events during the course of an over or passage of play.

”Cricket is widely televised, not only in the country where the match is being played, but throughout the cricket-playing world, and indeed further afield.

”The prizes for successful gambling can be very great, and the scope for corruption is therefore considerable.

”For the health, indeed the survival, of the game as a truly competitive sport, it must be eradicated.”

Majeed and Westfield pleaded guilty following rulings by the trial judges on issues of law relating to the offences alleged against them.

At the Court of Appeal the men argued that the rulings were wrong - Lord Judge, Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Irwin would have ordered retrials if they had ruled in their favour.

Dismissing the appeals, Lord Judge said the rulings by the judges “were right and these appeals against conviction are dismissed”.

He said: “The respective offences of conspiracy against Majeed and cheating against Westfield were properly prosecuted.”

Majeed was sentenced to two years and eight months in November after pleading guilty to conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to make corrupt payments.

Westfield, now 24, from Chelmsford, Essex, was sentenced to four months in prison at the Old Bailey in February and has since been released.

He pleaded guilty to one count of accepting or obtaining a corrupt payment to bowl in a way that would allow the scoring of runs.

He was paid £6,000 to bowl so that a specific number of runs would be chalked up in the first over of a match between Durham and Essex in September 2009.

As well as the jail sentence, Westfield was the subject of a confiscation order for £6,000.

In the case involving Majeed, three Pakistan cricketers also received custodial sentences at London’s Southwark Crown Court over a scandal that rocked world sport.

Ex-Test captain Salman Butt was jailed for two-and-half years for his role as the “orchestrator” of a plot to bowl deliberate no-balls in the 2010 Lord’s Test against England.

Mohammad Asif, the former world number two Test bowler, was sentenced to 12 months.

Mohammad Amir, who had been tipped to become one of the all-time great fast bowlers, was sentenced to six months.

All three players are serving five-year bans from cricket imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Amir and Butt failed in an attempt to have their sentences reduced at the Court of Appeal in November.

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