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"You cheat - I excel at gamesmanship"

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So a tabloid newspaper has reported allegations of match-fixing by a test cricket team. Technically I think the allegation is ‘spot-fixing’ as it was alleged not that the activity directly affected the result, but that it ‘fixed’ a specific moment in the match to enable betting to be rigged.

There has been some fairly intemperate stuff in the media about life bans for those who are found to have been involved in match-fixing and it occurs to me that this whole area is fraught with potential problems. We assume without looking at things thoroughly, that there are extremes at either end of the spectrum of conduct which are easy to identify and deal with, but there are a myriad of grey areas across any number of sports.

What of the footballer who deliberately dives to secure a penalty or who deliberately handles the ball to prevent a certain goal? What of the cricket player who deliberately tampers with the ball to secure an advantage for his team? In short where does gamesmanship end and cheating begin (and what should be the punishment for the latter)?

Why does match-fixing so rile us? It can’t be the unjust financial gain on the part of the perpetrators, because gamesmanship can on the same level lead to huge financial gain. Is it in some way that we feel cheated at a personal level, because the emotional commitment we have invested in the contest has been secured fraudulently (and so in part we feel foolish)? I do not know the answer, but what I do know is that there will always be cheating and there will always be gamesmanship and we need to be careful before we start to impose bans (lifetime or otherwise) for the former if we can’t tell the difference between the two.

Paul.

Posted: 01/09/2010 11:08:50
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