New Zealand police say they evicted several "betting cheats" from Saturday's Cricket World Cup opener between New Zealand and Sri Lanka as part of an international crackdown on corruption.
The spectators were accused of "court-siding", the practice of relaying information from the ground to people overseas, taking advantage of broadcasting time delays to manipulate betting.
"We know what to look for," World Cup policing commander Sandy Manderson said without detailing how many people were caught. "We're aware that people are attempting to operate at venues and they will be detected, evicted and trespassed from all venues." Courtsiding is not illegal in New Zealand, but it is a breach of the terms and conditions of ICC Cricket World Cup tickets. It is different from match-fixing, which is the manipulation of sporting events to achieve a pre-determined outcome.
As part of the operation at Hagley Oval, where New Zealand opened the World Cup with a 98-run win over Sri Lanka, plain-clothed police staff were stationed among spectators looking for excessive use of devices including lap-tops and cellphones. The International Cricket Council warned ahead of the World Cup it was cracking down on court-siding, or pitch-siding as it is also known, to ensure a corruption-free tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
Ronnie Flanagan, head of the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit, said the issue went far deeper than a few clever people getting one over on betting shops. "I think the risk is that this feeds into a wider and more sophisticated network of illegal betting, often in the Indian sub-continent," he said.
Flanagan, a former British chief constable, said the ICC was sharing information with the New Zealand and Australian governments as well as state administrations.