Big Bash's vulnerability comes under scrutiny

CHLOE SALTAU AND ANDREW WU
Last updated 10:41 08/02/2013

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Cricket Australia will ramp up surveillance of the Big Bash League and commission an independent review of its integrity systems.

The CA chief executive, James Sutherland, said the most alarming aspect of the Australian Crime Commission report released on Thursday was the nexus between drug use and corruption in Australian professional sport.

But Sutherland said he had no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs, links to organised crime or match fixing in Australian cricket, which has its own anti-corruption unit. He is ''as confident as we can be'' in the integrity of the BBL.

Still, senior cricket figures recognise that the emerging Twenty20 competition is vulnerable to corrupt activity because the games are televised live on the subcontinent, where there is a vast and unregulated illegal betting industry.

Gerard Daffy from Tattsbet estimated that punters in Australia gambled between $2 million and $5 million on each BBL game (depending on the timeslot and the state of the match, given more than 50 per cent of betting is done once the game is in progress). He estimated an increase of between 25 and 33 per cent in bets on this summer's BBL compared with last season.

One overseas player did not return to the BBL this summer amid suspicion from many other players.

However, CA does not have information suggesting any manipulation of BBL games and all players, including overseas imports, complete anti-corruption education before they are allowed to play.

''We're as confident as we can be in that regard,'' Sutherland said. ''We have our own integrity unit that has surveillance activities over all of the Big Bash League matches. That's networked through to the ICC [International Cricket Council], who has its own anti-corruption unit and we work very closely with them, with information not just about the Australian betting market but the global betting market.

''Of course this report heightens our awareness of risk and we will only be taking a step up, in terms of the support around our integrity unit, to protect the Big Bash and all other cricket matches played in Australia.''

CA is not aware of peptides being used by Australian cricketers, and fast bowler Peter Siddle said the only supplements made available to players were basic vitamins, which were not injected.

''It's just all the general multivitamins and general stuff for health and well-being,'' he said.

CA plans to enlist a high-profile figure from outside the game to lead the integrity review. ''We'll be immediately looking to review what we have in place and how that is going to interrelate with plans at government level,'' said Sutherland, who also leads the Coalition of Major Professional Sports.

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''The one thing that comes through clearest to me [in the ACC report] is that there are potential connections here ... between performance-enhancing drugs and/or illicit drugs and/or corrupt activities around fixing of matches, and we need to look at those not just in isolation but as a whole to protect our sport and sport in general.''

A former Australian player said he would be ''absolutely flabbergasted'' if matches in Australia were fixed. ''I have absolute confidence there's nothing dodgy in Australian cricket,'' he said. ''There's not a chance in hell you could get a game fixed in Australia.''

He said salaries were too high for a player to risk engaging in corruption.

- The Age

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