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Social Media Stalking - Corruption and Covid-19

Last week, we wrote a piece on how corruptors were using the lack of live sport during the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of the betting markets through the medium of ‘ghost matches’.  Our attentions now turn to cricket, as the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in Dubai issued an ‘Alert Notice’ to all of its members (including players, coaches and agents), to remain vigilant against the risk of being contacted by those seeking to corrupt cricket.

During these difficult times, fan and community engagement is as important as ever.  Cricketers and cricket bodies are using social media as a successful tool in keeping fans informed and entertained, even without the ability to play cricket.  At the highest level, Sky Sports in the last couple of weeks aired re-runs of the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup Final and last summer’s famous Ashes test at Headingley, with the likes of Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jofra Archer ‘commentating’ on the matches via a Zoom video call.  Jos Buttler also used social media as a charitable tool, selling his World Cup final shirt on eBay for over £65,000 with the proceeds going to charities dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

However, with the huge uptake in social media by players and fans, corruptors are taking their chance to use the same means to approach players, to build relationships with a view to them being able to exploit those relationships and fix matches.  What may at first glance seem like a positive and harmless product of their increased fan engagement, could soon result in players realising the bleaker consequences of an approach. 

The ACU warned that these corruptors are exploiting a time where domestic cricketers are not receiving an income, to offer them commercial sponsorship opportunities and other financial benefits. Such approaches have already been reported by agents, with the ICC already being aware of players being invited to places such as Dubai and the Maldives to discuss ‘opportunities’.  It will be hard for some to say no without the proper guidance and protections in place.

The ACU has sprung to the rescue and prompted players to remember and practice the ‘3 R’s’:

  1. RECOGNISE what is happening;
  2. REJECT the offer; and
  3. REPORT to the Anti-Corruption Unit."

This demonstrates one of the positive initiatives being promoted to protect the integrity of sport, at a time when there is no sport being played. The ICC and its member cricket boards are due to discuss contingency plans regarding Covid-19 today and it will be interesting to see what further topics of conversation might emerge.

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.

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