ICC defends early Amir return

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The head of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit has denied he has set a dangerous precedent by allowing convicted spot-fixer Mohammad Amir an early return from his five-year ban.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan last month exercised his discretion to enable the 22-year-old Pakistan seamer to make a return to domestic cricket seven months before his suspension was due to expire.

The decision raised some eyebrows, but speaking at a pre-World Cup press conference in Sydney – during which Flanagan also likened the methods of criminals who try to induce players into spot-fixing to paedophiles – the former Home Office Chief Inspector of Constabulary said Amir’s early return did not represent any softening of the ICC’s zero-tolerance stance on corruption.

“The process I went through and the decision I arrived at, I’m certain does not set any improper precedent for others,” he said.

“I fully respect the views of those who say that shouldn’t have happened. Personally, I’m content in conducting all of those considerations that it was right.”

Amir was jailed and banned from the sport for his part in a spot-fixing scandal during Pakistan’s 2010 tour of England.

The prodigiously talented seam bowler, who delivered pre-arranged no-balls at Lord’s as part of a plot involving new-ball partner Mohammad Asif and then Pakistan captain Salman Butt, was not due to play again until September 2.

Since his conviction Amir has been a willing aid in the ICC’s fight against corruption and has appeared in videos warning players about his own fall from grace.

Flanagan said Amir’s contrition had also helped convinced him to relax his ban – Amir is still unable to return to international ranks – adding that his story was a “powerful” tool in the ICC’s fight against corruption.

“I looked at all these things carefully, I interviewed Amir several times,” Flanagan said.

“I had interviewed him in the past and I am certainly satisfied that he met all those sorts of conditions that I’ve referred to – that he fully admitted his part and indeed had told us fully what he knew.

“He was very co-operative with us and has assisted us in the education programme. I think it is a powerful message.

“It is one thing for international sports people to hear a message from a retired cop, telling them what they shouldn’t do and what they should be careful of.

“I think it is altogether another thing getting that message from someone who had been an international player who did fall from grace, who is saying ‘please don’t do what I did, please don’t succumb in the way that I did’.

“(In the anti-corruption videos) he describes how when he won his first cap he slept all night in his shirt representing his country the night before it. What it meant to him and his family, to fall from grace, I think is a very powerful message.

“So I am absolutely comfortable.”

Flanagan had faced the media ostensibly to speak about security and corruption measures at a World Cup he feels will be untarnished by the threat of spot-fixing or any other illegal measures such as ‘pitch-siding’.

Such practices are criminal acts in Australia and New Zealand and the ICC will benefit from an intelligence-sharing arrangement with the law enforcement agencies of both countries, signed two years ago, to clamp down on offenders.

In addition a Cricket Australia analyst will supply information on betting patterns as part of the “centralised intelligence hub” that Flanagan believes will help eliminate corruption when the tournament begins on February 14.

“What I think is important is that fans can come (to matches) with confidence knowing this will be true competition between teams fought out on the basis of ability and sometimes luck, but a tournament that is free from corruption or the threat of corruption,” said Flanagan, who also offered a gritty insight into the warnings he had extolled to players in an anti-corruption video to be shown to all participating nations before the tournament.

“In our line of work we too often meet and know that there are rotten people out there, criminal people out there, who will do all in their power to get at players and others of influence throughout the game.

“They’ll trick them, they’ll coerce them and try and attract them – they are almost like paedophiles in how they attempt to groom people and to ultimately attempting to make them do what suits their nefarious intentions in terms of illegal betting and other elements of illegality.

“We have gone to great lengths, in a multi-faceted way, to make sure they don’t get their way. We will be working in partnership to make sure they don’t ever get their way in this tournament.”

Any such individuals are likely to find entry to Australia difficult in any case, with CA and the Aus tralian Federal Police (AFP) in contact with the country’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection to identify ” non-citizens of character concern” in relation to match fixing.

A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection told Press Association Sport: ” The Department met with representatives from the AFP and Cricket Australia recently to discuss the issue of match fixing and associated criminal offences in major sporting events.

“The Department has a strong co-operative relationship with the AFP and we liaise regularly on a range of intersecting law enforcement and immigration matters, including the identification of non-citizens of character concern.”

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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