Gangs, Drones and Cleaners: Bookies are Hit for Six by Cricket Pitch-Siding

Cricket StadiumAlthough I absolutely wouldn’t condone such behaviour, plenty are making money from betting on outcomes that have already happened.

You might be thinking ‘what on earth am I talking about!?’ Well, don’t worry, I’m not suggesting there’s a bunch of time travellers passing through a wormhole and wagering on sporting events they’ve already seen unfold.

No, I’m talking about pitch-siding, which is an act that continues to turn the tables on the bookies.

Ahead of the Game

As you may know, many betting firms offer odds on niche and low-key sporting action these days. They rely on data companies to fill them in with what’s happening in some of the most far-flung countries on the planet.

And while these data firms are good, they’re not perfect at reporting in-play stats to the second that they happen. That means that individuals attending the game know what’s happened a split-second before the bookmakers’ in-play market is updated.

Those that move fast enough are able to get a bet on before the bookies have updated their odds accordingly, and so they are guaranteed to win. Welcome to the world of pitch-siding….

A lot of sports have had their issues with pitch-siding. On some minor tennis tours, odds are offered by the bookies despite the action unfolding in front of the proverbial one man and his dog. It’s no wonder that ‘court-siding’ is rife, with plenty profiting from it.

Horse racing has also been hit by pitch-siding, with slick operations using drones in a bid to beat the bookies by a few seconds. Some rake in as much as £10,000 a day for their efforts.

But of all the sports hampered by pitch-siding, it’s perhaps cricket that is the worst hit. The advent of in-play betting, and super-fast mobile apps, means that we can bet on every single ball of a cricket match – and that has created an opportunity for nefarious sorts and a threat to the integrity of the sport.

Front Row Seats

Woman Watching Sports Game

All of the leading cricket-playing nations have their own domestic T20 competitions, which attract many of the top short format players from around the globe.

South Africa is no different, and their SA20 tournament is enjoyed by TV viewers and punters all over the world. You might think it’s an unlikely target for pitch-siding, but you’d be wrong.

A cricket South Africa (CSA) investigation into corruption led to eight spectators being removed from various stadiums hosting the SA20. Why? They were betting on what they saw – or reporting the information – to bookmakers in India and Bangladesh thousands of miles away.

This is a surprisingly common occurrence. Eyewitnesses have documented pitch-siders at minor cricket tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and it’s thought that some are paid as little as £50 a day to travel to international games from India and Bangladesh to act as a ‘scout’ for major gambling syndicates.

Incredibly, one of the spectators kicked out of the SA20 game revealed he had earned nearly £4 million pitch-siding around the world.

With such huge sums of money floating around, it’s not surprising that so many are willing to take the greater risk of trying to bribe players into assisting their ill-gotten gains via spot fixing. That’s not been lost on the CSA, for whom a spokesperson said: “A lot of people start off as pitch-siders and then become corruptors, as they spot the potential for even greater earnings.”

You’d be amazed how far the web has spread….

Gangster’s Paradise

Prisoner in handcuffs

In 2011, the cricketing bible Wisden went rather out of their comfort zone when they reported on illegal bookmaking in Pakistan.

It came less than a year after three Pakistan internationals – Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif – were caught fixing a game between their country and England. They had taken bribes from a Pakistani bookmaker, Mazhar Majeed, to deliberately bowl no-balls at certain times in the Test match.

The trio were imprisoned and banned from cricket for five years, but few in Pakistan were overly surprised. One of Wisden’s informants claimed they knew the result of some games in advance due to the odds they were supplied by Karachi-based bookmakers alone.

Further investigations revealed a network of gambling corruption that was, allegedly, headed by Dawood Ibrahim, the leader of Indian organised crime syndicate D-Company. He sanctioned a terrorist attack in Bombay that killed more than 250 people, and was once on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.

Since the start of 2021, a number of different pitch-siding events have been reported at cricket matches. Two individuals were found hiding in bushes at a league game in the Republic of Ireland – each had two mobile phones on their person, one gambling syndicate used a stadium cleaner to act as their scout in the 2021 IPL, while more than 20 people were arrested at a UAE vs Nepal contest in November for alleged pitch-siding.

It’s a tactic that continues to hit the bookies for six, and make those involved filthy, stinking, morally-questionably rich.