ECB batting for bookies

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board have been embarrassed by news that they are busy setting up a lucrative contract with a firm of online bookmakers.

The England and Wales Cricket Board have been embarrassed by news that they are busy setting up a lucrative contract with a firm of online bookmakers.

The ECB, which has been at the forefront of the campaign to stamp out match-fixing and prevent players and officials supplying information to, or having any contact with, bookmakers has been setting up a deal allowing it to cash in on the forthcoming Test series between England and Pakistan.

But according to one Board member nothing has been signed and he insisted last night: "Discussions are taking place, but no deal has been done with anyone yet." If a contract is agreed, however, it would appear, according to a Sunday newspaper report, that a firm of online bookmakers, Blue Square.com, will be accepting bets for England's Test series in Pakistan. And for every bet made by English punters the ECB will receive £10 from Blue Square, with further cash to the Board if a punter has 10 bets with the firm. In return the bookmakers will have a prominent position on the ECB's official website.

With life bans having been handed out to Pakistan's Salim Malik and South Africa's Hansie Cronje for match-fixing, it is at best insensitive of the ECB to go ahead with such a deal and at worst, downright crass.

An ECB spokesman last night defended the Board's decision, saying: "There are betting tents at all the major Test grounds during the summer in England. The only restrictions that apply are to officials and players. There is nothing which says a fan cannot have a bet."

Lord MacLaurin was accused of hypocrisy when the ECB did not insist on Alec Stewart being sent home from the tour when India's Central Bureau of Investigation first released their report into corruption in the game. How the subcontinent will react to this latest blunder is anyone's bet.

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