India Premier League corruption must be dealt with now

Sunday saw millions of Indians transfixed by the final of the glitzy Indian Premier League, the highly lucrative cricket competition, despite the fact that the competition is mired in a corruption scandal. Pankaj Agarwal explains why Indian cricket must now be reformed.

The corruption scandal involving Indian Premier League players, middle-men, bookmakers, Bollywood actors, underworld dons and administrators has led to the arrests of more than five people for ‘spot fixing’ and has brought the game into disrepute.

In cricket it is possible bet on actions during a game, such as how many “no balls” there will be during an innings. If these actions are manipulated, this is called spot fixing. That’s what happened during IPL games.

First it was the players, S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan who were arrested, then Vindoo Dara Singh, 49-year old Bollywood actor. Several bookmakers have also been apprehended and the son-in-law of the president of the governing body in Indian cricket, the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). As a consequence, public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court for a temporary ban on the league. This was denied.

Rightly so. It’s not the job of the Supreme Court to run cricket. The court blamed the board of control for its “lackadaisical attitude” to governance, which it believed allowed the corruption to happen.

This is not the first time Indian cricket has found itself in an unwelcome spotlight. Nor is it the first time the league has come under scrutiny for illegal activities, money laundering and other wrongdoing. But despite introducing anti-corruption units travelling with the teams, the board of control has not been able to stop corruption during the league.

To my mind, the league is a glaring example of lack of transparency and accountability on the part of different stakeholders involved. Players, who are paid handsomely, have less allegiance to the board of control – and their commitment to adhere to its code of conduct – than to outside interests. This makes them vulnerable to criminals.

A sports event, in its very spirit is meant to be fair, unpredictable and faithful to the rules. But scandals such as this only go to suggest otherwise.

The board, despite its anti-corruption code, has failed to be vigilant enough. The loopholes in its implementation are clearly visible in the midst of a culture of bureaucratic laziness. How else would the players have been tempted to cheat?

Transparency International has been advocating for strict observance of high ethical standards and legislations to check the menace of corruption in sports. At our annual meeting in November 2012, a committee was formed by members of cricket playing nations. We submitted our recommendations to the International Cricket Council, cricket’s world governing body, which included a far broader code of conduct for everyone involved in the game and greater transparency of the governance of individual cricket boards.

Each member of this committee, including India, has been attempting to discuss the matter with International Cricket Council, the world governing body for cricket, and local boards but in India, at least, no response has been received.

I think it is time for the international community to take notice of this appalling instance of corruption that is plaguing the sporting community. It is important not just for the sake of transparency but also because eminent sportspersons serve as role models and the youth, globally, deserves responsible and law abiding role models.

We have asked the board of control to engage in a dialogue about the reform process in cricket. We hope, with the spotlight on their activities, they will agree to take part in the discussion.

Carousel image: Creative Commons, Flickr/  Britanglishman

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