Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Shame of International Sport

So what we all already knew has been confirmed in this past week with the three Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir being found guilty of spot fixing. All three have leave to appeal to the International Court of Arbitration of Sport but one suspects they might be better employing their lawyers time to fight the upcoming criminal charges they are set to face at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 17th March.

Having seen the footage of both the video secretly recorded by the newspapers and the actual no balls bowled during the match there was always sadly little doubt that the players were indeed guilty. For such a high profile case, prosecutors would not be charging the three criminally unless they were one hundred percent sure that they were guilty. What saddens me however is not the corruption - we have sadly become used to endemic cheating in sport with everyone from Alex Rodriguez to Marion Jones and a cast of thousands in Le Tour De Cheats - but the reaction of the Pakistani players to their sentencing. The reaction is quite remarkable and shows you what the world is up against in trying to remedy these ills. Mohammad Amir is acting and talking like he is the victim, Salman Butt has also spoken of his 'disappointment' at his sentencing. Not one of the players has admitted or even taken any responsibility for their actions merely claiming that their sentences are unduly harsh. What utter nonsense, they should feel lucky if the penalties stop there.

Cricket is a fully professional sport for which spectators and sponsors pay huge sums of money every year to bankroll. The rewards for the very best players are not insignificant. Once you are paid money to do something it becomes a job and not a pastime, therefore it should be subject to the same sanctions that are applied in any other walk of life.

If you steal the stationary from your employer you could be charged with theft, if you fiddle your expenses you can be charged with fraud, if you drive a motor vehicle for a living and you show up drunk you will lose your license at the very least. If you are a sportsman who takes direct action that influences the result unduly which affects hundreds of thousands of people, many of which may have money staked at the bookies or have spent money to attend the match or at the least paid for a television subscription then you should answer in the same way.

Cheating in sport is universal, that is not to say it should be condoned or even accepted. Those that are caught should be served with the harshest sentences. Sport in most cases and certainly in the case of cricket affects a huge amount of lives both emotionally and financially. What these cricketers have committed is fraud and nothing less and they should be treated as common criminals. Insider traders go to jail and so should they. Naivety or stupidity is not an excuse for what is a crime driven by greed. Send a message and send them to jail - no nonsense.