LONDON: Gangs are using instant messenger services to pass on match information to illegal gamblers and sport needs to act to catch up, the head of world cricket’s anti-corruption united told AFP.
Ronnie Flanagan, former chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and its successor the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said sports criminals are also crossing into new sports having already become a thorn for cricket, football and tennis.
“They are becoming more inventive in how they communicate with each other and circumvent our measures,” the head of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption united told AFP.
“They use WhatsApp and other forms of social media to communicate,” he said after addressing the World Rugby Conference in London.
“We have to keep a step ahead of them.”
Gangs have long stationed agents at cricket and football matches to try and get game information for illegal bets.
Even a split-second advance on a goal being scored in football or a six being hit in cricket can make syndicates a fortune. Messenger services can easily delayed television images.
Flanagan, who replaced another former senior police chief, Paul Condon, in 2010, said the creation of anti-corruption units in English, Australian and Indian cricket has been “very positive.”
The 67-year-old Northern Irishman said the ICC unit was working increasingly closely with the national bodies.
But gambling is like sports doping, regulators close down one avenue and the criminals find another another to exploit.
“They are increasingly determined,” he said.
“While international cricket has become a harder target for them they have improvised and targeted all types of televised matches.
“They don’t care if it is England v Australia for the Ashes or Kent v Sussex just so long as it is televised so it facilitates betting illegally.”
– ‘Effective and vibrant partnerships’ –
Flanagan, who on taking up the role in 2010 was thrust into the Pakistan spot-fixing scandal in England, said sharing intelligence with other sports is crucial in the battle with the criminals.
“Organised criminals are operating on a trans-national basis in getting money through corruption in sport,” said Flanagan.
“I am certain also these corrupters do not confine themselves to one sport.
“The fact they’re moving across sports means for us we must engage and liaise with other sports bodies sharing intelligence, tactics and to learn from each other.”
The ICC unit does not have police powers and relies on national authorities to arrest and prosecute suspects.
“Policing, as it is I believe similarly with fighting corruption, can only dream of being successful if it involves effective and vibrant partnerships between themselves and local stakeholders.
“That’s why I’m delighted with the relationship we enjoyed with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) leading up to and including the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
“That is the model for co-operation in the fight.”
There are many ways to get tips, but Flanagan is not at ease with using the term “whistleblower” for when somebody comes forward with information.
“That also goes back to my police days,” he said.
“I prefer to call them a reporter of wrongdoing.
“They are all different types, some are risking a lot by coming forward.
“These people must be looked after and the term whistleblower has connotations to it.
“There are really honourable people who are approached to give information to these criminal gangs and in some cases are physically sick at the thought of doing so.”
Flanagan, though, seeks to reassure those coming through cricket ground turnstiles.
“I would tell them to be optimistic when they buy their tickets for the match,” he said.
“Everything is being done to ensure it is a fair game.
“Sometimes these games are won by luck but usually they are won by the best side.”