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May 9, 2000


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The ACB report

Editor's note: The following story is reproduced from The Age, Melbourne, in its edition dated 25/02/1999. We are indebted to reader Mani Ramachandran for trawling through the archives to locate this story, in response to a request.

A QC's inquiry into corruption in Australian cricket has found that Shane Warne and Mark Waugh should have been given "significant" suspensions for taking money from an illegal bookmaker, and recommended life bans henceforth for Australian players discovered to have helped fix matches.

The inquiry also reveals that former Australian captain Mark Taylor was approached for information in Rawalpindi and Karachi on Australia's tour of Pakistan last year, though he was not offered money. He hung up on the caller both times.

The inquiry, conducted by Queenslander Rob O'Regan and instigated by revelations two months ago that Warne and Waugh had accepted money from a bookmaker in Sri Lanka in 1994, makes scathing conclusions about the players' conduct and the Australian Cricket Board's handling of the issue.

O'Regan says it was not enough for Warne and Waugh to claim to be naive in accepting money, since both had been on a previous tour of Sri Lanka in 1992 when Dean Jones and Greg Matthews had been approached by bookmakers, but had rejected the advances.

"Waugh and Warne, as tourists when Jones had rejected an approach, would have been aware that coach Bob Simpson had then expressed to players his strong disapproval of the provision of information to bookmakers for payment," O'Regan wrote.

"It is naive to think that a gift of a large sum of cash would ever be made by an unknown benefactor with no strings attached. When such a gift comes from a person known to be involved in illegal betting on cricket, the likelihood of being compromised is greatly magnified. In behaving as they did, they failed lamentably to set the sort of example one might expect from senior players and role models for many young cricketers."

It would have been more appropriate, said O'Regan, to suspend them both "for a significant time". Yesterday, he added: "In my view, their conduct was serious and merited a punishment which was more proportionate to the nature of the offence."

O'Regan also said the board had acted inadvisedly five months later when it learnt of the impropriety of Warne and Waugh, fined them heavily, but went to lengths not to disclose either the offence or the punishment. The board's reasoning was that the players had been investigated for breaches of their contracts, not for offences under the code of conduct.

At the time, allegations by the same pair of players that Pakistan captain Salim Malik had tried to bribe them had just come to light, and Australia was preparing for a challenging tour of the West Indies.

"The board was pressing the ICC to take action about the allegations against Malik ... and the West Indies tour was about to begin," wrote O'Regan. "A member of the public might conclude, wrongly but perhaps not surprisingly, that these matters led the board to deal with the case in private."

Yesterday, O'Regan said: "I don't seek to impugn the good faith of the board or the integrity of its members. I just think their decision was mistaken."

Seven of the 14 ACB directors at the time are still on the board, including the present chairman, Denis Rogers. Yesterday, ACB chief executive Malcolm Speed said that none felt their position now to be untenable.

O'Regan also castigates the board in his report for not recognising a link between the the approaches of the bookmaker, known only as John, to Warne and Waugh and Malik's approach to them a few weeks later.

"I do not see how the ACB would confidently conclude that there was no connection between John's payments and the alleged attempted bribes," he wrote. "Both the chronology of events and the symmetry of the contacts, the two players being both the recipients of the bookmakers payments and the targets of the alleged attempted bribes, suggests that there may well have been such a connection. Whatever the case, it is not necessary to establish any link in order to make the point that acceptance of money from a bookmaker even for information which might be considered innocuous does compromise the player."

Indeed, wrote O'Regan, it left both open to the possibility of blackmail.

Elsewhere, O'Regan's report reveals that Mark Waugh had been warned by a senior player and roommate in 1994 that providing information to bookmakers was unwise, "as it was likely to come back haunt him later in his career".

It also reveals that a former Pakistani cricketer approached then Australian captain Allan Border to help to throw the sixth Test in England in 1993, saying there were people ready to back England for about 500,000 pounds.

And it reveals that the second of two exhibition matches between an Indian XI and a World XI, featuring two unnamed Australian players, in 1992, was fixed for the World XI to lose, although the Australian players deny taking payment.

Yesterday, O'Regan said he had found no evidence of any greater wrongdoing by Australian players or teams than to have accepted bookmakers' money.

"I'm pleased to report that never in the course of my inquiries did I hear any suggestion that any Australian team had engaged in match-fixing or failed to play on its merits," he said. "I also report that there is no basis for recommending disciplinary action at this time against any player or official."

But, he said, it was imperative that disciplinary procedures were tightened. He recommends in his report that future offences be investigated not as breaches of players' contracts, in which case they would necessarily remain private, but under the board's code of conduct, under which they would be obliged to be made public.

"I think only in the event of publicity attending such matters is it possible for the penalty to operate as an effective deterrent," he said yesterday.

Anyone found guilty of match-fixing should be suspended for "life, or a lengthy period of time", says the report.

Anyone found guilty of dealing with bookmakers should be suspended for "a shorter, but still significant period". Young players should be warned of pitfalls on tours, and captains and coaches be made to submit reports as well as managers, since they generally knew more than managers.

"Australian cricket is clean, and it's important that it's kept that way," O'Regan said yesterday.

"That means you have an effective disciplinary regime. That means penalties are effective. It also means that the disciplinary process is transparent, and members of the public can have confidence in it."

O'Regan and assisting counsel John Jordan interviewed 64 people, not all Australians, in compiling the report. However, as theirs was a private inquiry, with no powers to subpoena witnesses, dozens of other people were not available to be interviewed.

O'Regan's report also contains a confidential section. It was not to cover up vital information, he said, but because its contents would be actionable if made pubic.

They are believed to pertain to cricketers from other countries. "It's a gripping read," he said.

All will be advanced to the International Cricket Council for its own inquiry into corruption, announced in Christchurch last month.

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