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Corrupt cricketer may be jailed

2012-01-12 20:46

London -The first cricketer to plead guilty to charges of spot-fixing in an English county match was told on Thursday he could be jailed.

Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield, 23, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to accepting or obtaining a corrupt payment to bowl in a way that would allow the scoring of runs.

He received £6 000 ($9 199) to bowl so that 12 runs would be scored in the first over of a 40-over match between Durham and Essex in September 2009, although in fact only 10 were scored.

Westfield, who will be sentenced on February 10, was told Thursday by Judge Anthony Morris: "I hold out no promises to you as to the eventual outcome of this case.

"It's open to the court in this case to pass an immediate custodial sentence."

Morris added that the name of the other party involved in the deal would be known to cricket fans, but it was not revealed in court.

An international cricketer was arrested alongside Westfield but later released without charge.

This case took place against the backdrop of Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer being jailed in Britain last year for their role in a 'spot-fixing' scandal in a Test match against England.

Huge sums are bet on cricket matches, especially in the Indian subcontinent - the sport's financial powerhouse but an area where gambling on cricket is generally illegal - because of the way incidents in matches, and results, can be manipulated.

Westfield conceded an expensive 60 runs from seven overs as Durham scored 276 for six, a target surpassed by Essex, who won by seven wickets with 19 balls to spare in the Pro40 game played in Chester-le-Street.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), in a statement issued several hours after Westfield's guilty plea, said: "This case has clearly demonstrated that there can be no complacency with regard to the potential threat posed to all areas and levels of sport including our domestic game by corrupt activities.

"This case sends out a clear message to all players and officials that spot or match fixing is a criminal activity and punishable in law.

"We will, of course, continue to do our utmost to ensure that cricket is free from any corrupt activity," the statement added, with the board saying they would make no further public comment on the case until the court reconvened for sentencing on February 10.

Earlier, Detective Sergeant Paul Lopez of Essex Police, said: "We are pleased that Mervyn Westfield, a young professional cricketer, has now admitted the charge.

"And we hope that this sends a strong message to professional sportsmen and women around the country - if they intend to get involved in spot-fixing, or think that match-fixing is not a crime, then they need to think again."

The ECB's anti-corruption chief Chris Watts, formerly a detective with London's Metropolitan Police, recently suggested the domestic game may be more vulnerable to malpractice because of its lower profile and the fact players involved are generally earning less than their international counterparts.

But Angus Porter, the chief executive of England's Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), said: "Our view on it is that the world has moved on quite a long way since he (Westfield) committed those offences.

"We've invested a huge amount in educating players as to their responsibilities, but I think that none of us can be complacent."

As for suggestions the county game was particularly vulnerable, Porter added: "I'm not convinced that we know who the high-risk groups are.

"There is no doubt that where there are threats of corruption they will be linked to gambling and that gambling will predominantly be on televised games.

"International cricket certainly is a risk and I think domestic cricket is also a risk because some games are televised on the Indian sub-continent so I suppose those specific matches are the ones we need to worry about."

AFP

Comments
  • Jack - 2012-01-12 22:00

    So the batsman only scored 10 runs instead of 12. 10 months instead of a year in jail.

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