Belfast Telegraph

Former RUC chief probes cricket corruption claims

By Anne Madden and Cathal Milmo

Former RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has been handed the difficult task of leading the fight against corruption in cricket after the game was bowled over by a new match-fixing scandal.

Sir Ronnie, from Belfast, stepped into the role of chairman of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) anti-corruption and security unit in May, succeeding Lord Condon who stood down after a decade in the post.

The Pakistan cricket team yesterday left London for Somerset ahead of the series of one-day matches against England due to start this weekend as the political and sporting fallout continued.

The News of the World claimed to have a smashed a multi-million pound cricket match-fixing ring which rigged the England and Pakistan Test at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London last week.

The allegations surround Pakistan bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif who, it is claimed, delivered three no-balls to order. The newspaper’s undercover team posed as frontmen for a Far East gambling cartel. They filmed a meeting with a London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed who, in return for £150,000, detailed what would happen — and when — on the field at Lord’s the next day.

Scotland Yard has launched an investigation into the scandal, seizing mobile phones belonging to the two bowlers and Pakistan captain Salman Butt.

Calls for sterner action were led by Malcolm Speed, the Australian head of the ICC between 2001 and 2008, who said there was a “fairly compelling case” for the entire Pakistan team to be suspended immediately from the sport.

Mr Speed said: “It looks as though it is endemic, that several of the team members are involved and have been for some time. So perhaps they need a rest. It looks a fairly compelling case.”

Pressure for draconian measures against Pakistan was countered by Imran Khan, perhaps the country's most renowned player, who said it would be wrong to punish individual Pakistanis for the alleged wrongdoing of a handful of their compatriots.

Mr Khan told ITV News: “Why should Pakistan cricket suffer if some players have indulged in a crime? Why should Pakistani supporters suffer because of that? The people who are found guilty should be removed from the team and replaced and should be punished as an example for future generation to realise that crime does not pay.”

Scotland Yard yesterday denied claims that it had given the green light for the players at the centre of the allegations to leave Britain as investigations continue into the actions of Mr Majeed, who was released on police bail on Sunday night following his arrest on suspicion of consipiring to defraud bookmakers.

Meanwhile, the International Cricket Council (ICC) last night warned of “prompt and decisive” action against any players found guilty of wrongdoing but stopped short of ordering the suspension of the Pakistan cricketers named in the NOTW inquiry for the remainder of the country's matches in England.

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