By Matt Hughes For The Daily Mail
Eight illegal gamblers, including two from England, have been kicked out of Twenty20 matches in South Africa during the first two weeks of the SA20 competition amidst concerns over corruption.
A Sportsmail investigation has unearthed details of Cricket South Africa’s anti-corruption operation at the new franchise tournament, which is primarily aimed at clamping down on criminal gangs exploiting poor workers to service India‘s £100billion-a-year illegal gambling industry.
The group stages of SA20 has featured England stars such as Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer alongside top South Africans Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock, a combination that has attracted the country’s first sell-out crowds for domestic matches in a generation.
Eight illegal gamblers have been kicked out of T20 matches in South Africa in the first fortnight of the new SA20 competition, for which icon Graeme Smith (right) is League Commissioner
But the glitz and the glamour disguises a seedier side to the tournament. After spending time with CSA’s anti-corruption officers at several of the competition’s six venues, Sportsmail can reveal:
– Eight punters were thrown out of matches for the illegal practice of pitch-siding – passing on live match information from inside stadiums to bookmakers without a licence – including two from England, three from India, and three from Bangladesh, although anti-corruption officers say the real numbers involved are far higher.
– The Indian and Bangladeshi gamblers evicted were employed by criminal gangs based in the sub-continent, who pay them a daily rate of around £50 plus accommodation and food in return for live commentary on the match, which enables them to gain information and data ahead of the big gambling operators and therefore beat the markets.
– Individual punters can make millions from pitch-siding, with one of the UK-based gamblers kicked out by anti-corruption officials openly showing them his career earnings, which totalled £3.8m.
Pitch-siding is prohibited at all sports venues, as by giving illegal gambling operators a time advantage of up to 10 seconds compared to those relying on television pictures it can severely distort betting markers.
A Sportsmail investigation has unearthed details of Cricket South Africa’s anti-corruption operation at the new franchise tournament, aimed at criminal gangs exploiting poor workers
Anti-corruption officials have also told Sportsmail that there is considerable evidence of individuals who start off pitch-siding being drawn into acting as go-betweens to facilitate corruption and spot-fixing, particularly those employed by criminal gangs.
During SA20 those caught pitch-siding for the first time were kicked out of the stadium and given a banning order from all other grounds. Those guilty of a second offence were handed over to the South African police and charged with trespassing, as they had breached the terms of a previous banning order.
Whilst there are a few individuals who practise pitch-siding for personal gain such as the English punter boasting of his £3.8m winnings, the majority are in the pay of illegal gambling syndicates.
At less well attended T20 events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi it is common to see large groups of men with several phones openly pitch-siding, but with limited resources devoted to anti-corruption, the offence remains difficult to prove.
Anti-corruption officials have estimated that there are around 100,000 bookmakers operating illegally in India with sport betting largely focussed on cricket.
The group stages of SA20 has featured high-profile England stars such as Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer (pictured). There is no suggestion either is involved in any criminal activities
There are no betting shops or legal operators so there is no way to track bets, with every bet and financial transaction undertaken digitally.
‘There’s a lot of money to be made,’ a CSA official told Sportsmail. ‘One of the guys from the UK we evicted was happy to show us his lifetime’s earnings, which were £3.8million. I’m not sure how long he’d been gambling for, but that’s a lot of money.
‘It’s very difficult to spot pitch-siders in big tournaments, as the stadiums are full and most of the crowd are constantly using their mobiles anyway. The number of people caught probably represent a fraction of those actively involved in illegal gambling.
‘A lot of people start off as pitch-siders and then become corruptors, as they spot the potential for even greater earnings. Our job is primarily to make sure that the players are not approached by these individuals.
‘We take a zero tolerance approach and anyone suspected of illegal gambling or suspicious activity is thrown out of the stadium.’
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group