Spot betting – the gambling scourge of cricket

Edgbaston Stadium
©Cricket World

Cricket betting in the UK is a fairly painless process. Typically, when you indulge in wagering at any of the leading cricket betting sites, you are selecting which team you think will emerge victorious at the end of an encounter. Wagering on cricket (in the UK at least) has yet to match the popularity of betting on football or horse racing, but it's becoming an increasingly lucrative market for sports books, year on year.

While it is hard to significantly influence the overall result of a game of cricket without being too obvious about it, it is relatively easy to influence certain aspects of the game, and this process – know as spot betting – has the potential to become a real problem.

Spot betting is found in other sports and has caused issues. A spot bet can be placed on virtually anything – in football, for example, the time of the first throw in or whether a certain player will be cautioned in the first ten minutes. In 1995 Southampton footballer Matt Le Tissier stood to win £10,000 if he managed to kick the ball out of play within a minute of the kick off, while in 2017 several friends of Sutton United goalkeeper Wayne Shaw took advantage of a deal offered by bookmakers of odds of 8-1 that the 'Roly Poly Goalie' Shaw would be seen live on TV eating a pie. Both Shaw and Le Tissier, along with other top pros such as Cameron Jerome and Andros Townsend, were sanctioned for their actions for breaking FA betting rules.

While those examples may seem slightly frivolous, in cricket spot betting has proven to be a bigger problem, particularly in Asia. It is significantly easier for a cricketer – particularly bowlers – to fulfil a spot betting 'demand' without causing an alert. While this in the short term may seem harmless, it opens up individuals who can be influenced in such a way to being influenced in other, more damaging ways.

Betting on cricket in Pakistan is completely illegal and the activity is heavily regulated in India, but that has not deterred those with nefarious intentions from successfully influencing cricket players to under-perform in matches. The most 'infamous' scandal occurred in 2010, when bookmaker Mazhar Majeed found himself implicated in a string operation organised by the now defunct UK newspaper News of the World.

Uncover reporters from the newspaper met with Majeed who told them he could influence two of Pakistan's leading test players – Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – to bowl no balls at specific points in a test match. All three suffered for their greed – Majeed was jailed for thirty-two months and both Asif (jailed for one year) and Amir (jailed for six months) were suspended from cricket for a minimum of five years.

While cricket betting in the UK is fine for Joe Public, it is naturally out of the question for those involved in the game, and the fates of Asif and Amir ought to serve as fair warning for those who may think otherwise.