New Zealand: Hitting cricket match fixing for 6

In recent years, match-fixing has reared its ugly head as very real threat to sport globally. Cricket, unfortunately, has borne the brunt of a lot of recent media attention over match-fixing and it is timely that, with the Cricket World Cup 2015 ("CWC 2015") recently ending, we acknowledge recent measures taken to reduce the threat of match-fixing in New Zealand.

On 15 December 2014, the New Zealand Government made match-fixing a crime through an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 ("the Act")1, where anyone found guilty of doing an act or omission made with "...with intent to influence the betting outcome of an activity by manipulating the overall result or any event" could face up to seven years imprisonment – clearly, a very long innings of the unwanted kind.

The Act's amendment forms part of a suite of initiatives the New Zealand Government has introduced to protect the integrity of sport by taking a tougher stance on match-fixing. Sport New Zealand published its Policy on Sports Match-Fixing and Related Corruption ("the Policy") in April 2014. The Policy is designed to provide a strategic framework across Government, the sports sector and the betting industry to prevent match-fixing.

What is match-fixing?

Match-fixing is defined in the Policy as:2

"...improperly influencing the overall result or any part (spot fixing) of the sports match, game, race or event (generically referred to as a 'match') for financial or personal benefit, rather than for tactical sporting reasons".

Match-fixing could include:3

  • Deliberately underperforming;
  • Disingenuously withdrawing from a match or game;
  • Attempting to influence or influencing a sports official regarding the outcome of a match;
  • A sports official deliberately misapplying the rules of a match;
  • Interference with play, equipment or playing conditions;
  • Abuse of insider information to support a bet or the making of a bet regarding a match.

Match-fixing is a significant threat to the integrity, value and growth of New Zealand sport. It is not hard to see how fans, sponsors and players themselves will turn away from a sport if they lose faith that the outcome is fixed and that fair play is not being observed. If there is a perception that a result is pre-determined, sport has little point. And that is just not cricket.

The new crime of match-fixing comes just after cricket's most recent, high profile match-fixing disclosure. Last year, New Zealand's Lou Vincent pleaded guilty to 18 match-fixing or spot-fixing charges4 brought by the England and Wales Cricket Board ("EWCB") in a number of international, national and domestic competitions across a number of countries (although not in New Zealand). He was banned from all facets of the game for life. Fortunately for Vincent, whilst the EWCB could have brought criminal charges against him, it decided not to as this was not in the best interests of English tax payers.5

As a result of Vincent's statements and admissions, later this year, Chris Cairns now faces trial for perjury in the High Court in London. That charge relates to evidence he gave in 2012 when suing former head of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, for defaming him as a cheat.6

The Policy

The Policy requires all New Zealand sports organisations to take measures to prevent match-fixing and ensure information is shared between Sport New Zealand, the New Zealand Racing Board, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand, and the Serious Fraud Office. Compliance with these measures may require sports organisations to adopt new rules or amend existing rules to address how that sports organisation will monitor, respond to and prevent match fixing activity.

It is hoped that a strong regulatory framework will ensure athletes, coaches, managers and those affiliated with them will be educated on the perils of corruption in sport. Whilst the Policy does not create any legally binding obligations, it does mean that those sports that do not comply, will not receive funding from Sport New Zealand.

Protections in place for Cricket World Cup 2015

Long before the CWC 2015 kicked off, the International Cricket Council ("ICC") and the authorities in New Zealand and Australia were working together to mitigate the risk that match-fixing poses to the tournament.

At the end of last year, NZ Police agreed a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") with the ICC's anti-corruption security unit. The agreement with the ICC allows information sharing between NZ Police and the ICC on a large scale, which clearly helps both parties to better investigate and confront possible match-fixing activities. The new match-fixing legislation gives NZ Police greater powers to investigate corruption in sport in the same way that other criminal activity is investigated and therefore gives greater teeth to the MOU.

The importance of information sharing between authorities was showcased at CWC 2015. NZ Police were able to identify and evict spectators from the opening game for "court siding". Whilst not a form of "match-fixing" per se, court siding is where spectators relay information on the match as it happens to overseas gambling syndicates, who take advantage of that information and the broadcasting time delays to manipulate betting.7 (It is well known that Australasian markets are more at risk because they have convenient time zones for the Asian markets.8)

Interestingly, whilst police were involved in removing those who were caught court-siding from the ground, the only offence they had committed was that they had breached the terms and conditions of the World Cup tickets. However, those terms are included to try to prevent the stain of gambling manipulation, which is the driver for match-fixing. The ICC is determined to crack down on this in ways they can, and court-siding clearly has similarities to match-fixing.

Comment

Cricket has recently received media attention not for the great achievements on the field, but for the shadow of match-fixing off the field. The CWC 2015 is the ICC's headline act. New Zealand, as co-host of that major event, received considerable exposure. In making match-fixing illegal and implementing strategies to monitor and address the factors which lead to match-fixing, New Zealand's exposure was focussed rightly on the on-field achievements at the CWC 2015. New Zealand, although devastatingly unsuccessful in the World Cup final, did hit match-fixing for six.

Footnotes

1The Crimes (Match-Fixing) Amendment Act.
2The policy, page 2
3The policy, page 3
4Particular actions within matches which are more easily manipulated than, for example, overall match results: see the Policy at page 12.
5Stuff article 31.5.14
6Chris Lance Cairns v Lalit Modi [2012] EWHC 756 (QB) (26 March 2012), and Chris Lance Cairns v Lalit Modi [2012] EWCA Civ 1382 (31 October 2012).
7Radio New Zealand article, 15.2.15 8Match-Fixing : Coming to a stadium near you

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Jonathan Pow (formerly with Wynn Williams Lawyers)
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