Match Fixing: Need for a Better Legislation.
The author is a 3rd year B.A.LLB (Hons.) student of NLIU, Bhopal
Match fixing has become a part and parcel to almost every existing sport in the world and has flexed its arms to tarnish the basic ethnicity of the term Sports. Oxford dictionary defines sports as: “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
Entertainment, if we focus on this sole term of the definition provided we will realise that ample number of formats and championships have been introduced to provide entertainment to that audience that spends chunks of money. Indian Premier League is one of the best existing examples wherein players from across the world are auctioned upon and celebrities, business tycoons are seen spending their fortune.
The Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions which was concluded in Macolin on 18 September 2014 (Macolin Convention) is a multilateral treaty that aims to prevent, detect, and punish match fixing in sport.
“Manipulation of sport competitions means an intentional arrangement, act or omission aimed at an improper alteration of the result or the course of a sport competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of the aforementioned sport competition with a view to obtaining an undue advantage for oneself or for others.”
The above definition of “match-fixing” covers a wide range of situations:
-The deliberate loss of a match or a phase of a match;
-The deliberate underperformance by a competitor or improper withdrawal before the conclusion of a match (tanking);
-The fixing of specific elements of a sporting event (spot-fixing);
-The deliberate misapplication of the rules of a sport by the referee and/or other match -officials;
-Interference with the play, playing surfaces or equipment.
It is surprising to note that nowhere in the Indian Laws the term Match-fixing is defined. It was only until CBI Report on Match Fixing allegations which came in 2000 wherein the term was defined as:
(i) instances where an individual player or group of players received money individually/collectively to underperform;
(ii) instances where a player placed bets in matches in which he played that would naturally undermine his performance;
(iii) instances where players passed on information to a betting syndicate about team composition, probable result, pitch condition, weather, etc.,
(iv) instances where groundsmen were given money to prepare a pitch in a way which suited the betting syndicate; and
(v) instances of current and ex-players being used by bookies to gain access to Indian and foreign players to influence their performance for a monetary consideration.
The phenomenon of match fixing can be dated back to infamous incident of Black Sox scandal 1919 where eleven members of the Chicago White Sox team threw the world series. The phenomenon is carried out in two ways: tanking and spot fixing. Tanking is when the player intentionally throws away the game at his hand by deliberately losing or not competing at all and spot-fixing involves fixing small events within a match which can be gambled upon, but which are unlikely to prove decisive in determining the final result of the game. The widespread of match-fixing is immense and can be seen in almost every sport, cricket, baseball, tennis, horse-racing, snooker, sumo-wrestling to name a few. However, a high concentration can be seen in cricket. The world has witnessed many infamous cases of match-fixing and a recent sting operation documentary of Al-Jazeera discusses the match-fixing incidents covering almost all the formats of cricket.
The laws in India under which match-fixing can be dealt with are as under:
- Indian Penal Code,1860 (IPC):
Section 415 of IPC which deals with the offence of cheating includes deceiving’ a person’. Cheating must be committed against a specific person. The section does not include the term ‘persons’. Match-fixing is an offence against public at large which is not included here as it deals with a person in specific. The section also warrants transfer of property which is not clearly involved in match-fixing. Section 120-A of IPC deals with conspiracy which uses the term illegal acts. Since none of the laws in India illegitimates match fixing therefore it cannot be covered under this section.
Moreover, for it to be a criminal offence, dishonest intention (i.e. presence of mens rea) is to be proved with wrongful loss/gain. Since the wrongful loss caused to the spectators is consequential and not something caused intentionally it cannot be covered under IPC.
- Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988(PCA):
According to section 13 (1) (d) (ii) of PCA ‘a public servant is said to commit the offence of criminal misconduct, if he by abusing his position as a public servant, obtains for himself or for any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage.’ To bring the act of match fixing one has to bring ‘cricketers’ under ‘public servants’. S. 2 (c) (viii) defines public servant as a person who holds an office by virtue of which he is authorized or required to perform any public duty. But do cricketers really do any public duty. Cricketers are mere professionals governed by independent contracts whose job is to entertain people by playing cricket. They do nothing sort of public duty. Thus cricketers do not come under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 also.
- The Public Gambling Act, 1867 (PGA):
The Public Gambling Act is the only law bringing match-fixing directly in its ambit as gambling is its direct cause. However, Section 12 of the act provides with an exception that it would not apply to game of mere skill and nowhere defines the phrase. Horse racing and rummy are seen as game of mere skill. The power lies with the states to determine the status of betting and gambling as they are state subjects under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Goa and Sikkim have legalised many forms of betting and gambling. Thus, there lies a grey area when it comes to determining what can fall under mere skill.
Apart from these, The Prevention of Dishonesty in Sports Bill was ready in 2001; others followed: The National Sports Development Code (2011), the Draft National Sports Development Bill (2013), and the Draft Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill (2013). In 2016, the then President of the BCCI and a ruling party Member of Parliament Anurag Thakur introduced the National Sports Ethics Commission Bill which borrowed from the earlier bills. Yet, nothing could be brought to the plate permanently.
In our history, the infamous Cronjie Scandal was the first to have the major impact wherein eminent players like Salim Malik, Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar were brought under the radar as having connections with bookmakers. The practise being too lucrative often sees involvement of underworld. The recent 2013-IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal is still fresh in our minds and though the division bench of Supreme Court in BCCI & Others v. Cricket Association of Bihar & Others showed zero-tolerance towards such activities nothing concrete was suggested to regulate such activities. It has thus been seen time and again that the current laws in existence dealing with match fixing leave lacunae and grey areas and there is a need to fill them.
The following recommendations can be made to recover the lost integrity of Sports:
- A new law criminalizing sports corruption should be enacted and the sports authority in concurrence with the national law should make rules and take severe disciplinary actions.
- The problem having its main roots at the lowest level, the sports authority should conduct strict surveillance during and around the sport event being conducted and on any suspicion about irregular betting should inform public authority.
- The Criminal Investigation Department should use a special unit to infiltrate the illegal market of sports betting (such as an Intelligence Unit) to combat the criminal enterprise at the grass-root level and eventually penalise the criminals after carrying out a severe investigation.
- Betting Fraud detection system should be used based on sophisticated mathematical models which project what odds should be expected to be given a rational commercial market. This system is used for live betting and calculates changing odds from the start to the end of the match. The deviation from the standard odds placed by a bookie produces an alert.
- The combination of the Betting fraud detector and the corruption monitoring centre will prove to be a tougher system to beat by the match-fixers.
Better legislation to deal with match fixing is need of the hour because if sport cannot be pure, then what area of human activity is left for honesty!
 Match-fixing, Council of Europe (May, 26, 2017, 10:17PM) https://www.coe.int/en/web/sport/match-fixing.
 Sumit Agrawal, Mtch Fixing as a Crime: An Analysis, Legal Service India ( May 23,2018, 00:05AM) www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/social.htm.
 Id. At 3.
 BCCI & Others v. Cricket Association of Bihar & Others, (2015) 3 SCC 251.