Sri Lanka has become the first South Asian nation to criminalise several offences related to match-fixing, after its parliament passed all three readings of a bill entitled “Prevention of Offences Related to Sports” on Monday. Offences related to corruption in sports will carry a prison term of up to 10 years, as well as various fines.
Aside from Sports Minister Harin Fernando, who presented the bill to parliament, former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who is a cabinet minister, was a strong supporter of the new legislation during Monday’s parliamentary debates. The sports ministry in particular is understood to have worked closely with the ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit during the process of drafting the bill. In fact, although the bill covers all sports, it is the recent ACU investigation into Sri Lankan cricket that is believed to have prompted this legislation.
The bill’s ambit is broad. It seeks not only to punish “any person related to a sport” who is directly involved in fixing, but also those who “provide… inside information”, curators who prepare playing surfaces to suit betting operators, and match officials who “deliberately misapply the rules” for money. In addition, it is now also illegal for former players (and others involved in sports) to provide corrupt figures access to current players.
Just as significantly, the bill also criminalises “acts of omission”, which includes failure to report corrupt approaches. This means that Sri Lankan cricketers who are approached by potential corruptors may now have to report these approaches not only to the ICC’s ACU under the ICC code, but also to a Special Investigation Unit appointed by Sri Lanka’s government.
Although parliament passed this legislation during Monday’s special sitting, it is not law until the Act is gazetted, probably in the course of the next 10 days. A parliament spokesperson said the gazetting is expected to be a mere formality.
While Ranatunga was a leading figure during the debate, urging parliament to push an unamended bill through as soon as possible, former SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala proposed amendments to the bill that were ultimately defeated on the floor. Sumathipala was at pains to mention, however, that he was not against the passing of the bill as a whole, only the contents of certain clauses.
Sri Lanka’s cricket has been under investigation by the ICC’s ACU since 2017. Several former players have been charged under the ICC code, the most notable of whom is Sanath Jayasuriya, who was banned for two years in February this year.