WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand lawmakers have unanimously passed a bill which will give police increased powers to tackle match-fixing ahead of next year’s Cricket World Cup.
The bill passed this week will become law before the World Cup in February and March and ahead of football’s under-20 World Cup in New Zealand in May and June and makes match fixing a criminal offence in New Zealand for the first time. Offenders face terms of up to seven years in prison.
Sports minister Jonathan Coleman welcomed the passing of the bill and said “match-fixing is a growing problem internationally and it is the number one threat to the integrity, value and growth of sport. In New Zealand we are not immune to this growing threat.” The bill, which makes match fixing a form of criminal deception, will become law by Dec 15, after receiving the “royal assent” of New Zealand’s governor general.
Opposition lawmakers expressed some concerns that the bill had been “drafted in haste” because of the proximity of the Cricket World Cup. In its original form, the bill outlawed match fixing “otherwise than for tactical or strategic sporting reasons” but that clause was removed in a later amendment.
The clause was intended to recognise the possibility a team might deliberately lose a match to gain an advantageous draw in the later rounds of a tournament. Lawmakers warned it might provide a wider defence for all match fixers.
Coleman said the Cricket World Cup was at the forefront of the government’s mind as the bill was passed, saying “we certainly don’t want it marred by the spectre of match-fixing.”
New Zealand has dealt with two major match-fixing cases in recent months.
Former New Zealand test batsman Lou Vincent received a life ban from cricket earlier this year after admitting his involvement in match fixing in competitions in 12 countries.
Former top international player Chris Cairns is facing a perjury trial in London next year. Cairns won 90,000 pounds (then US$140,000) in damages in 2012 after he sued Indian Premier League founder Lalit Modi over an accusation of match-fixing. Cairns was later charged with one count of perjury in the case.