World Cup boss wants fixing a criminal offence

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:03 06/12/2013

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New Zealand's Cricket World Cup boss believes laws making match-fixing a criminal offence could be in place before the tournament opens here in February, 2015.

An International Cricket Council (ICC) investigation into three former Black Caps on allegations of match-fixing has thrown the spotlight on the Kiwi hosting of the event.

New Zealand is co-hosting the sport's global one-day tournament with Australia and pressure will mount on cup organisers to maintain the integrity of cricket's showpiece following yesterday's allegations.

Sports Minister Murray McCully last week flagged plans to have elite sports monitored by nine government agencies and to have match-fixing made a criminal offence.

That would bring the country in line with Australia where a maximum of 10 years jail awaits match-fixers.

Therese Walsh, head of New Zealand operations for the World Cup, hopes that can be quickly achieved.

"I think we will get there before the World Cup in terms of having a framework, policy and potentially legislative redress for criminal prosecutions," Walsh said yesterday.

"Because the tournament is across both countries it is quite useful to have a consistent framework.

"Even just the announcement that has been made to date sends a really strong signal that New Zealand is taking it very seriously."

Walsh felt cricket was being pro-active and showing leadership with its anti-corruption unit.

"We will take our lead from them in terms of anything that might need to happen for Cricket World Cup. I know the ICC has really strong monitoring around the tournament. There will be as much vigilance as we can possibly expect. I'm confident we are doing as much as we can."

The New Zealand police were also a crucial element for the tournament. They had already been involved in discussions with the anti-corruption unit.

"The police are working with us extremely closely just as they did with the Rugby World Cup in terms of any of these sorts of issues, whether they be ticket scalping, ambush marketing or match-fixing."

Walsh emphasised the prestige and added scrutiny at the world cup would be a deterrent to would-be match-fixers.

McCully said he was "surprised and disappointed" to learn of the allegations.

"The International Cricket Council has confirmed it is investigating and I will not speculate on the outcome.

"These allegations reinforce the timeliness of new government measures to safeguard New Zealand sport, including the formation of a senior officials' inter-agency group and the implementation of a national match-fixing policy," McCully said.

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Prime Minister John Key said he was shocked to hear of the developments and that if media reports were proven correct "it would be a very, very, very serious matter".

"New Zealanders expect sport to be played fairly, they expect New Zealand sportsmen and women to to perform in way that upholds the ethics of the sport, and not to be doing it to be making money in an underhand way," he said

Key said he'd be very surprised if the allegations affected New Zealand's World Cup hosting rights, especially as they were of "historical behaviour".

"New Zealand is a country that sees itself as a very above-board, honest place to both do business and play sport, so it would be very concerning if this was actually correct."

Key said McCully's proposed regulations around match-fixing becoming a criminal offence were in response to the issues seen recently in Australia, and were rules New Zealand agreed with.

The ICC anti-corruption unit met a number of government agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Police, in August to discuss 2015 World Cup preparations.

An MFAT spokesman said Ministry officials attended briefings with the ICC this year on World Cup preparations but the meetings did not relate to the latest ICC match-fixing investigation.

- Fairfax Media

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