Friday 4 November 2011

Punishment In Sport

Looking around sport and seeing the types of punishments being handed out has really got me thinking.

On a day where Cricket has grabbed the headlines, I have thought about punishments in general (sport and society).

I have always been a bit sceptical about the punishments for a straight red card in football. A player can get a straight red card for being the last man and stopping a goal scoring opportunity or equally, a player can get a red card for a leg breaking challenge.

What is the punishment? A three game ban (in most cases). Does a player who has just been caught out of position deserve the same ban as someone who broke the leg of another player? For me, the three match ban should not be so black and white.

Today, the three Pakistani cricketers got a jail sentence but in the big picture, is a jail sentence right?

Take the young lad, M Amir. He was 17 years of age (when he bowled the No Balls) and was obviously leant upon by his captain among others. He was a young player with immense talent and could have been a world star. Coming from Asia, where there has always been rumours of corruption and where poverty exists, you can understand slightly why Amir did what he did; off course it was wrong and he should be punished but most people will have some sympathy.

The three players did wrong and should be punished; some agree with a jail sentence and some do not.

I look at Salman Butt’s 30 months (even though he may only be in for half of that) and think I know people that have done a lot less time for assault. Look in our own sport, Joey Barton was jailed for six months for assault. Which one is worse? Is Salman Butt’s crime five times worse then assault? I am not convinced.

I am a big follower of cricket and follow the Indian and English cricket team very closely and go and watch England play every summer ( more this summer because India were here) so I understand the argument of paying customers being cheated and I agree but is jail right?

Others have been known to actually throw a game; players like Mohammad Azharuddin (who was one of my favourite cricketers when growing up) and Hansie Cronje have been given life bans but interestingly no jail sentence. Both were very high profile players and captains of their countries (India and South Africa respectively). Cronje even passed away in a suspicious place crash which shows how deep the problem may go.

I have been told that these illegal bookies do not take NO for an answer and players worry for the safety of themselves along with their family and this may well be a valid argument but without players coming out who have been approached, it will prove very hard to catch these criminals. No man would enjoy threats to their family and there is a level of sympathy there too.

Other players have come out about how they have been approached like Hollioake, Nixon, Akhter etc and this may help the ICC to stop match/spot fixing in cricket.

I have never understood how life bans (in any sport) can be over turned. Once a life ban is given to a player, it should not be rescinded unless there is genuine proof the original ban was incorrect.

Back to the original point and that about punishments in sport and life generally; I asked the question if spot fixing in cricket should get a jail term and I am still undecided. The thought of having someone who has been convicted of spot fixing next to someone who has been convicted or Murder doesn’t sit well with me.

There are many positives to come out of this type of sentencing. Illegal bookmakers and potential players may just think twice about spot/match fixing. With all the sympathy around Amir, an argument can be made that if he is let off lightly, other young players may feel they can do the same. Young players are likely to be targeted as they may not have the experience or know how BUT at the same time, they should be protected a little.

Harsher punishments may be required if corruption in sport is to disappear but if the courts are to get involved then there has to be some consistency, others who spot or match fix must get harsh sentences and other crimes must have sentences that are deserved for the respective crime.

The question remains, some who assaulted another human being got six months in jail and someone who was apart of a major spot fixing case got 30 months.

Regardless of if you agree on the jail time or not, the three players and any others in any sport who match or spot fix deserve to get punished and I for one, never want to see any players who fix anything in sport play again ever.


  1. It's an interesting debating point.

    Crime and punishment seem to have become a little muddied recently. Prison was originally intended TO remove people who are potentially harmful to society FROM society.

    I realise times have changed and custodial sentences are used as more of a deterrent these days but this still doesn't seem an appropriate punishment in this case.

    As a sports fan I don't want to see any kind of match fixing at any level. I pay good money to watch sport and I expect it to be a fair, competitive spectacle.

    However, I believe custodial sentences should be reserved for crimes where there is a clear victim(s) and that victim(s) suffers pain, be it emotional, physical or financial as a result.

    Imprisoning these cricketers in no way repays those harmed. I.e., the ticket/TV subscription buying sports fan. This could only be done by punishing the wealthy organisers of such crimes.

    Ultimately the tax paying public are paying for what is essentially a sporting crime. I'm not happy about this. I realise that it is part of a bigger picture of organised crime and corruption but these three individuals are not the perpetrators of this level of crime.

    Unfortunately the depth of the corruption means that the real perpetrators will probably never be brought to justice.

    I believe, although their actions cannot be condoned, a sporting ban would have been a more appropriate punishment, accompanied by a significant fine. The financial burden of this, to players at their level, would be more of a deterrent.

    Great piece Akhill. Interesting stuff.


  2. And_Arsene_Said...4 November 2011 at 13:36

    Interesting article. I agree that violent conduct/tackels should carry a havier penalty then a red card. I also fully agree that these cricketers deserve all that they got and more.
    I also thought John Higgins got off very lightly by only being investigated by the snooker regulatory board and not the police, and thereafter a relatively lenient punishment for what was a similar crime in similar circumstances. Shame.


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