In a proactive measure, the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has asked players across the world to remain alert to corrupt elements attempting to take advantage of the current global lockdown by trying to contact them via social media. The ACU believes what might seem to be an “innocent” message from an “unsolicited contact” may actually be a “prelude to a corrupt approach”.
Consequently, on April 14, the ACU sent out an ‘Alert Notice’ to all member boards, players, player agents and players’ associations, asking everyone to be vigilant against the “current risk of contact” by corruptors.
The ACU felt it was appropriate to issue the warning mainly because the cricketing community, much like the wider public, was spending more time accessing social media at a time when governments worldwide have severely restricted any outside movement.
“With most of the world experiencing lockdowns and restrictions, it has left many with time on their hands, some of which can be filled on social media,” the ACU said in the notice, accessed by ESPNcricinfo. “The creativity some have shown has been remarkable, but there is a darker side.
“We have seen evidence that corruptors are using their time to contact players through social media, particularly Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook. To the unaware this can seem innocent, but that is not always the case and it could be a prelude to a corrupt approach.”
That the ACU warning was not a case of the watchdog being overcautious was confirmed by an international player agent who manages players from several countries, including Associates.
This agent, who also administers social media accounts of some of players, said that he had seen suspicious elements trying to send out cryptic messages. The agent said he had promptly sounded out the relevant cricketing authorities.
According to the ACU, the corruptors could present the player with potential sponsorship opportunities in this phase when several cricketers, especially those in the domestic circuit, are likely to get no earnings.
“Some will try to make what may seem like innocent contact to offer sponsorship opportunities,” the notice said. “They may claim to be representing team owners and offer a place in a franchise tournament. They sometimes use false names and untraceable numbers from a variety of countries.
“They may invite players to travel once restrictions are lifted to a place like Dubai or India to meet the ‘owners’. We have even seen the Maldives used for such meetings. Player agents, some of whom have been targeted for such approaches, have an important role to play in protecting players. It is good practice to ask for proof of who you are dealing with or push the contact towards agents.”
The ACU reminded the players and their agents to stick to 3 Rs’ principle: “RECOGNISE what is happening, REJECT the offer, REPORT to the Anti-Corruption Unit.” Alex Marshall, the ICC ACU general manager, pointed out that although cricket might have stopped temporarily, the corrupt elements were still active.
“Covid-19 may have put a temporary stop on the playing of international and domestic cricket around the world, but the corrupters are still active and as a result, our work with Members, players, player associations and agents continues,”Marshall told ESPNcricinfo.
“We are seeing known corrupters use this time, when players are on social media more than ever, to connect with them and try to build a relationship that they can exploit at a later date.
“We have reached out to our Members, players and their wider networks to highlight this issue and ensure they all continue to be aware of the dangers of approaches like this and do not let their guard down whilst there is no cricket being played.” (ESPNCricinfo)