Puppeteer

Will Match Fixers Will Use Social Media To Fix 2020 IPL?

The BCCI has somehow managed to schedule the 2020 IPL amid the on-going coronavirus pandemic. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to host the 2020 IPL from Sep 19 to Nov 10 across stadiums in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.

The IPL is the richest cricketing domestic T20 tournament in the world and continues to attract match-fixers like bees to honey. The IPL over the years has had its fair share of match-fixing incidents, which resulted in the suspension of both cricketers and IPL franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.

IPL and UAE Great Combination For Match Fixing

The UAE has also been a hotbed for match-fixing over the years as the notorious don Dawood Ibrahim has used the UAE as his base for many years and allegedly ran one of the biggest match-fixing rackets in the UAE and around the world.

There have been numerous warrants out for Dawood Ibrahim’s arrest, but he has managed to avoid the authorities and keep out of the limelight in recent times. However, rumors suggest that Ibrahim continues to run his crime syndicate and is actively involved in getting his soldiers to fix games.

Bringing the IPL to the UAE is a positive for the BCCI. If the 2020 IPL was canceled, the BCCI would have lost close to $500 million in revenue. However, bringing the IPL to the UAE also sets the stage for match-fixers to get a lot closer to the players and tempt them with big money.

BCCI ACU Says Bio-Bubble Will Help

The BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) will have their hands full during the 2020 IPL as they are fully aware that there will be attempts to fix games throughout the IPL. Ajit Singh, who heads the BCCI ACU, is aware of the match-fixing threat but believes that due to the bio-bubble, the threat will significantly reduce.

The IPL governing body will look to create a bio-bubble similar to what the NFL and NBA have done in America for their leagues. The IPL will create three bio-bubbles in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, where players, coaches, and support staff will not be allowed to exit their bubbles throughout the IPL.

The reason for the bio-bubble is to restrict access and exposure to individuals who are not part of the IPL setup. The bio-bubble is expected to keep players and staff a lot more secure from being exposed to the coronavirus. This restricted access within the bio-bubble is what the ACU is banking on to reduce the exposure to match-fixers as unknown individuals will not be allowed to enter the bubble.

Social Media Will Be Monitored

Singh believes the main access that match-fixers will have to IPL players will be via social media. Since unknown individuals will not be able to enter the bio-bubble, match-fixers will have to take the social media route to gain access to players. The ACU has confirmed that it will be keeping a close watch on all digital interactions of the players during the 2020 IPL.

Since the players are going to be confined to their hotel rooms most of the time, you can expect IPL players to be spending a lot more time on their social media accounts. The ACU will once again be providing players with social media education and letting them know how easy it is for an ‘innocent fan’ to approach them with an ‘offer’ suddenly.

The ACU will also have its work cut out as the team will be keeping a close watch on all betting markets to see if there is any unusual activity on IPL games. This is one clear way to find out if anything fishy is taking place.

Each IPL Team Gets 2 Liaison Officers

After the IPL match-fixing scandal in 2013, each IPL franchise was given an integrity officer who was responsible for vetting, who the players met during the IPL. The integrity officer would report any suspicious incidents to the ACU.

There will be no integrity officer during the 2020 IPL since players will be in the bio-bubble. The ACU has decided to have 2 security liaison officers for each IPL franchise who will stay at the team hotel and also travel together with the team for training practices and on match days. Singh confirmed that his ACU teams are well prepared and equipped to ensure that the 2020 IPL is free from match-fixing. They are so confident that they have declined to have any help from the ICC ACU team.

Implementing New Laws

India Urged To Pass Legislation To Criminalize Match Fixing

While cricket has surged in popularity with the introduction of T20 cricket over a decade ago and brought in millions of new fans around the world, a large number of fans have stopped watching the game. Die-hard cricket fans have been jaded by the numerous match fixing scandals that have rocked the cricketing world in the last two decades.

India continues to be a major hub for match fixing in cricket and T20 cricket tends to be one of the main targets. The Indian Premier League (IPL), Karnataka Premier League (KPL) and the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) have all been tainted with match fixing allegations over the years.

The BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has its hands full with multiple investigations to pursue plus the task of keeping a vigilant eye on current market situations as India gets ready to resume international cricketing action.

ICC ACU Head Urges For Law To Be Passed Quickly

The ICC’s ACU has been under even more pressure in recent years as there are multiple cases and leads that Steve Richardson and his team have to pursue. Richardson has called on the Indian government to help clean up match fixing in cricket by passing new legislation that will make match fixing a criminal offense.

Current laws in India ban any form of sports betting and anyone found placing an illegal bet can be arrested but if someone is found offering a bribe to a player to fix a match, they cannot be arrested as there is no clear law regarding match fixing.

This grey area is one of the reasons why match fixers are so bold to approach players and fix matches. Richardson believes that with India set to host the T20 World Cup in 2021 and the ICC World Cup in 2023, there is going to be a lot of attempts at match fixing in the coming years. He wants the Indian government to not only pass a law to criminalize match fixing but to pass the law quickly so that the authorities have more power to arrest and prosecute match fixers.

Richardson said that he had information concerning around 10 individuals who were serial match fixers in India but wasn’t too keen on sharing that information with the Indian authorities as he was aware the authorities cannot do much given the current legal framework concerning match fixing.

BCCI ACU Making A Difference

The BCCI ACU also supported the stance of Richardson and said the laws would significantly help them reduce corruption in the sport. ACU head Ajit Singh knows fully well how the TNPL and KPL have been tarnished due to the match fixing scandals that rocked these state T20 leagues.

When the ACU was commissioned to oversee these state T20 leagues, the match fixing scandals were highlighted. Indian cricket has seen match fixing at the highest level as witnessed by the suspension of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals franchises.

Singh believes at this point in time the ACU is working backwards looking to find match fixers and investigate suspicious games. A law criminalizing match fixing will help to discourage match fixers from openly going after players and make the work of the ACU a lot easier.

Notorious match fixer Ravinder Dandiwal was arrested in early July in Punjab. The BCCI ACU was the one who highlighted Dandiwal’s suspicious activities after he streamed a local T20 match in Mumbai and promoted it as a game played in Sri Lanka. This was a big catch for the ACU as they had been after Dandiwal since 2016.

ICC Can Work With Indian Government

Sri Lanka is currently the only cricketing nation to have put in place a law that criminalizes match fixing. The ICC and the Sri Lankan government worked together to come up with this law which hands out a 10 year prison sentence to match fixers. The law has been in place since 2019.

India being the biggest and most powerful cricketing nation in the world needs to take a leaf out of Sri Lanka’s book and pass a similar law. If India does listen to the pleas of the ICC and BCCI ACU, it will encourage other cricket playing nations to follow suit and protect the game of cricket from the evil of match fixing.

BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has strong political contacts to the current government but has so far not made it a priority to tackle match fixing during his term.

Puppeteer

ICC Reports Match Fixers Are Targeting Cricketers During Downtime To Build New Relationships

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the cricketing world to a standstill as the last cricket match that was played was back on March 15. This was a game that took place in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and since them domestic and international cricketers from around the world have been quiet.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has sent out a warning stating that while the cricketers have been quiet, a number of known match fixers have been very active on social media. The ICC Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has been keeping a close watch on individuals who have a shady reputation for fixing matches and found that they are targeting cricketers who are active on social media during this time.

They are using this time to approach cricketers and try to build a relationship. This is the general modus-operandi of bookmakers as they never directly introduce themselves as a fixer. They build a relationship by establishing themselves as influential people who can help players get lucrative sponsorship deals and contracts with big brands. Players end up trusting these individuals and it is only then that an approach is made to spot fix or match fix!

No Cricket – No Money

ACU chief Alex Marshall said that this was a very tough time for cricketers, especially those involved in the domestic circuit as no cricket means they will be getting little to no money coming in. This made it a very opportunistic time for match fixers as it makes it easier for them to lure players with the promise of big money.

The ICC has been working hard to weed out corruption from cricket and educate players from all over the world about match fixers and the way they work. While the top international cricketers will not feel a pinch in their finances, the domestic cricketers and fringe players will be vulnerable to these match fixers who are looking to make the most of this opportunity.

The ICC remains confident that its efforts to combat match fixing and educate players over the consequences of match fixing will hold up during these tough times. The ICC is once again cautioning players to be aware of who is approaching them on social media. Cricket players have been told to immediately report any approaches made to spot fix or match fix. The ICC has not reported any new match or spot fixing approaching during this downtime.

Indian Cricket Tainted By Match Fixing

It is a known fact that match fixers pay special attention to the Indian cricket market as it is the most lucrative cricket market in the world. India is home to a population of over 1.3 billion people and the majority of them are avid cricket lovers.

Indian cricket has been tainted over the years as match fixers have managed to sway both players and team owners. Some of the players who have been targeted by match fixers include former captain Mohammad Azharuddin, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manoj Prabhakar and Sreesanth.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) saw two of its popular franchises in the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) suspended for two years after it came to light that the team owners had connections to known match fixers.

The Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) and the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) have also been tarnished with serious match fixing allegations going back to the last couple of seasons.

BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has confirmed that the BCCI ACU is also keeping a close watch on players and are confident that if any of the Indian players are approached, they will immediately report the same to the ACU.

Indian Players Very Active On Social Media

The top Indian cricket players are usually active on social media but with all the downtime they are now spending a lot more time on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Just to give you an idea of how popular the top Indian cricketers are on Instagram: Virat Kohli has 54.7 million followers; MS Dhoni has 22.4 million followers; Rohit Sharma has 13.1 million followers; KL Rahul has 5.6 million followers and H Pandya has 10.8 million followers.

Indian players have been told that match fixers will create fake social media handles and approach them in the disguise of fans, gain their confidence and then make them an offer to spot fix or match fix!