English cricketers were last night granted a three-month amnesty to report corruption in the game. The offer was made by the England and Wales Cricket Board after the former Essex fast bowler Mervyn Westfield pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe to bowl badly during a match in 2009.
Westfield faces a prison term when he is sentenced next month. In a last-minute change of plea, he admitted at the Old Bailey yesterday to receiving corrupt payments for an over he bowled in a Pro40 match against Durham at Chester-le-Street. The match was played in September 2009. Since Westfield was first accused in 2010, he had steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
The ECB, anxious to ensure that match-rigging is not widespread in the domestic game, acted hours after the hearing. Players and officials are to be offered a window until 30 April to report approaches or information related to corrupt activities. The ECB made it clear it was already an offence not to make such disclosures but wanted to offer players a window in which they will not be subject to any sanction.
Chris Watts, who has run the ECB's anti-corruption commission since last November said: "Information is critical in addressing the threat posed by corruption in sport. The decision of the board to provide a window for retrospective reporting of alleged approaches will greatly assist in compiling a more complete picture of the source and focus of approaches which may have taken place in the past."
Westfield is accused of taking £6,000 to leak 12 runs in his first over in the match. It went for 10 but he received the money anyway. He later boasted about the fix to a team-mate, Tony Palladino, who reported it and was due to give evidence at the trial. The details of the case will be outlined at sentencing next month. The ECB, stunned by the case and possible repercussions for the English game, will hope that not too many players beat a path to its door.