By Aadam Patel and Matt Hughes For The Daily Mail
The ICC are investigating up to six allegations of corruption at a high-profile T10 competition in Abu Dhabi which featured four of England’s Twenty20 World Cup winners.
Sportsmail can reveal the world governing body’s anti-corruption unit (ACU) received more than a dozen allegations regarding corrupt activity at the two-week tournament, half of which have been deemed serious enough to trigger formal investigations.
Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Alex Hales and Dawid Malan flew straight from England’s T20 triumph in Australia to take part in the event, which was broadcast live on Sky Sports last month.
The ICC are investigating six allegations of corruption at T10 competition in Abu Dhabi which was won by Deccan Gladiators (there’s no suggestion of wrongdoing by their players)
They banked fees of up to £50,000 for playing just seven 10-over matches, while former white-ball captain Eoin Morgan also took part. There is no suggestion that any of the allegations involve the England players.
The ICC probe is understood to focus on the unusual level of betting activity, with around £15million staked using exchanges on a tournament where bookmakers were highly visible, and all the teams were sponsored by betting companies.
Sportsmail has learned that in the regulated markets, up to £800,000 was wagered on individual matches which attracted only a few hundred paying spectators. It is an unusually high figure, almost certainly dwarfed by the activity in unregulated markets on the subcontinent, where gambling is illegal.
The ICC also received reports of questionable activity around the teams, including franchise owners dictating bowling and batting orders in advance without considering the conditions, star players being dropped at short notice and batters giving their wickets away with inexplicable shots.
In one case the son of Darren Herft, owner of the Chennai Braves franchise, opened the batting alongside England batsman Dan Lawrence despite never having played a first-class game.
Sportsmail can also reveal that some of the 16 England internationals who took part have yet to receive the final instalment of competition fees that range from £10,000 to £50,000, four weeks after the tournament finished.
One owner tried to terminate the contract of an England international the day before he was scheduled to join up with his franchise, for unknown reasons.
Moeen Ali (left) and Dawid Malan (right) flew straight from England’s T20 triumph in Australia to play in the event though there is no suggestion the allegations involve any England players
At least one Indian player had his wages paid by the league rather than his franchise. In another anomaly, it is understood that Sky Sports were given the live rights to broadcast the competition free of charge, and took advantage by screening several games each day in the run-up to Christmas.
The ICC receive around 1,200 tip-offs from players regarding suspicious activity each year, which lead to between 30 and 40 investigations annually, so launching six inquiries on the back of one two-week tournament is a cause for concern.
The rapid growth of short-form cricket, with lucrative T20 competitions taking place in Australia, South Africa, the UAE and Bangladesh this month alone, has led to fears of increased corruption.
An ICC investigation can take up to a year to conclude because it involves scores of interviews and analysis of bank and phone records, but their anti-corruption unit has achieved results in the past, with 24 players caught and banned in the last four years.
A source told Sportsmail: ‘The ACU’s role is to keep international cricket clean, which has been done very successfully over the last few years, as there have been very few allegations of corruption, never mind charges or successful prosecutions. But the corruptors and fixers have not gone away and will look for other opportunities, which will primarily be in franchise cricket.
‘They will target the lower-level players, poorly paid members of back-room staff and the owners, in the hope that they will give them access to players.
‘The term spot-fixing is widely used, but that’s a misnomer. No one is betting on individual moments. A more common bet is the number of runs scored in a powerplay or the first over of the game, for example, so the fixers target the opening bowlers.
‘Typically they would be asked to concede between 12 and 15 runs in the first over.
‘Alternatively, fixers target the opening batters and ask for a slow start, after which they can get on with the game. This is how the corruption works. No one is fixing entire matches.
The ICC’s anti-corruption unit received more than dozen allegations regarding corrupt activity at the two-week tournament in Abu Dhabi
‘The inducements offered to fix vary from around £3,000 for games in Europe, to between £10,000 and £30,000 in the UAE. There was more noise around Abu Dhabi than usual this year, but not all of it is necessarily corruption. We had reports of strange goings-on in some teams, owners demanding that their son played, owners trying to influence the captain.
‘This looks bad and we tell the owners not to do it, but it’s not covered by the anti-corruption code. The code covers betting on cricket, giving or asking for inside information, not reporting suspicious activity and performing in a certain manner in return for payment.’
The ACU’s primary responsibility is to monitor international cricket, so big franchise competitions such as the IPL, the Big Bash and the Hundred police their own events, but smaller tournaments featuring more than four international players must apply to the ICC for a licence. To gain ICC approval, such competitions need to meet strict criteria regarding ground standards and payments, and they must have an anti-corruption strategy, which leads to several applications being rejected each year.
The ICC licence lasts for one year and can be withdrawn at any point, while all the owners are vetted.
A Canadian competition — the Global T20 — took place in Ontario in 2018 and 2019, but has not been held since after the ICC removed its licence.
An ICC spokesperson said they do not comment on ongoing investigations.
AADAM PATEL: I see the same faces in the stands using multiple phones… then later in player’s hotels
It is November and the eyes of the world are on the Middle East and the biggest event in global sport. Football’s World Cup is taking place in Qatar.
A little under 200 miles away in the desert, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, another global event, now in its sixth season, takes place starring household cricketing names.
It sounds like a dream for a local cricket lover. With three games a day — each lasting 90 minutes — for just under a fortnight, the Abu Dhabi T10 looks like a festival of fun and the chance for fans to get a glimpse of their heroes.
In many ways that is exactly what it is, but the tournament also has a darker side…
The Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub is a sporting haven. With football, tennis, cricket and padel facilities available to the public, it is brimming with activity as the evenings get cooler in the Middle East. But the cricket is hardly pulling them in.
Inside the 20,000-capacity stadium are crowds of a few hundred at most. For the earlier games, there are more staff than spectators and even though tickets are roughly £3, it is left to organisers to bring in labourers from the nearby industrial area of Musaffah after they finish work to fill up the seats and create some atmosphere for the television coverage beamed around the world.
The workers are herded together and brought in by dozens of coaches as the evening rolls on. Speaking to them, many reveal they are offered free meals in return for their time at the cricket.
But these spectators are not the ones who raise my eyebrows. Scattered across the stands are men, predominantly from Asia, using multiple phones, earphones plugged in, relaying every bit of the action down the line. I meet men from Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Dhaka, and while some are too busy or simply unwilling to speak, a few speak up, bragging about how easy it is to make money.
One man gets angry because I am ‘asking too many questions’, but I still see him at every match, at the top of the stands, trying to keep out of view.
Scattered across the stadium were men using multiple phones relaying every bit of action down the line
This is their job, being sent around the globe by people back in India. Just like players on the freelance white-ball franchise circuit, they travel thousands of miles ensuring they get their slice of the pie.
Some of these men are ‘pitch-siding’, where live events are communicated to someone who can influence the betting market in real time before the TV coverage catches up. But others are there to ensure orders are followed. Sometimes these people know which players are being controlled and they know the script. They are looking out for pre-arranged signs — such as a batsman removing his helmet or a glove — to signal that the fix is on.
In numerous off-the-record conversations, I hear about players being approached in hotels and bars.
I see the same faces from the stands — the men with their multiple phones — sitting in the lobbies of the players’ hotels, at the swimming pool and loitering around the bars in the evening. They know exactly which teams are staying where.
I speak with players, coaches and others involved with franchises, and many admit to having their suspicions about the tournament they are involved in. ‘It’s a circus and we’re all dancing monkeys,’ as one player puts it.
But all are cautious at the implications of raising their concerns officially, due to either the loss of future opportunities or potential threats. Sometimes both. It is not difficult to meet players or even find out their room numbers. Some players speak to me about people approaching them in hotels and being sent strange messages on social media. Others are certain that their team-mates are involved in suspicious activity but admit that it would be too risky to accuse anyone without evidence.
The ICC probe into the event is focused on the high level of betting activity and reports of questionable activity around the teams
Remember, we are talking about contracts which can be worth £50,000 for a couple of weeks’ work in the winter sun, with all expenses paid at a five-star hotel. And cricketers have a relatively short career.
This is cricket without consequence. It is a routine of golf, cricket, sleep, repeat.
For the younger players, it is more alluring than a winter of indoor nets. It is the easiest money many of them will ever make. So the silence about corruption is no surprise.
But the stories are endless: players being paid in cash and having to hide it in their pads when they bring it back to their countries. Others still chasing payments from years gone by.
As the tournament ends, one of the gentlemen I meet in the stands tells me he is flying to Sri Lanka, where the Lanka Premier League takes place, but that he will be back in the UAE on January 13.
Next week, a new month-long T20 franchise competition begins in the Middle East with a healthy English contingent including former Test captain Joe Root. This year, T10 will expand to five locations around the globe, taking place in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, with plans for Europe and America.
In the words of one source: ‘Abu Dhabi T10 is actually a pretty well-run tournament compared to others.’ Just this week, the organisers of the Nepal T20 league fled the country.
These tournaments provide exposure and experience for players across the game. They grow the sport globally — but at what cost?
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group