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The gender pay gap debate continues in business as it has for a number of years. Confusion surrounding the topic remains widespread with many conflating it with equal pay and others denying its existence entirely.  Companies in the UK are now publishing their latest gender pay gap figures and the data reveals that men are typically paid more than women in most UK businesses.

But what are the implications in sport?  It is no secret that female athletes are paid less than men across most sports.  We are told that this is because interest in women’s sport is lower and as far as entertainment events go, they generate less money. That said, the disparate compensation, even at large combined tournaments (like golf and tennis) still requires our attention (for example, when in 2016 it was noted that at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati Roger Federer received $731,000 for defending his title while Serena Williams received $495,000 for defending hers just a few hours later). Fortunately for female professional tennis players, tennis has made huge progress paying women and men the same at Grand Slams and certain combined ATP 1000/WTA Premier Mandatory tournaments. Equal pay for equal play, right?

The conversation about the inequity of pay in men’s and women’s sport has once again been brought to the fore during this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.   The US national women’s soccer team thrashed Thailand’s national team 13-0 on 11 June 2019. In doing so, the players scored more goals than the US men’s national soccer team has scored in every World Cup since 2006 combined. The US national women’s team, having been the favourites this year and now having been crowned champions for a record fourth time following their 2-0 win against the Netherlands in Lyon on 7 July 2019, have already proved that (at the very least) they put on a good show. Nevertheless, the US Soccer Federation refuses to recognise its women’s national team in the same way as it does the men’s team. As a result, these women are suing the US Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.

So, what do the numbers say? According to ESPN:

“Among the numbers cited in the EEOC filing are that the women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year. But the men would likely earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games. Additionally, the women get paid nothing for playing more than 20 games, while the men get between $5,000 and $17,625 for each game played beyond 20.”

This disparity is not only unconscionable, it is embarrassing. Wage discrimination in US soccer appears to be entrenched in historical custom and practice. According to the US Soccer Federation’s 2016 budget figures (and notwithstanding either their success or their revenue generation) US women soccer players can earn as little as 40% of what men on the national team take.  In 2015, the US Soccer Federation awarded the women’s team $1.7 million for winning the World Cup. One year earlier, the same federation awarded the men’s national team a $5.4 million bonus for losing in round 16 in the 2014 World Cup. Equally, the US Soccer Federation can no longer argue that the women’s team bring in less than the men’s team. The 2015 budget figures showed a $23 million increase in revenue attributed to the women’s team’s World Cup win and victory tour — more than what the men’s team brought in during the same period. If that’s not evidence enough – a staggering 25.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2015 World Cup final between the US women’s team and Japan – the highest ratings record for soccer in the United States, ever. Even England’s 2019 World Cup defeat to the women’s US team was the most-watched British television broadcast this year, watched by over 11.5 million Britons.

The sad fact is that the disparities appear to go further than pay: the US women’s team claim to experience “purposeful and institutionalised gender discrimination” in every aspect of their work including in relation to the medical treatment and coaching they receive, how they travel to matches and having to play on artificial grass more often than the men’s team, which makes them more prone to injury.

The reason that this lack of parity can continue to prevail is if people believe either that (i) the work that women and men do are fundamentally different and should be subject to different remunerative structures or (ii) that women’s sport generates significantly less revenue which should be reflected in the compensation package offered. The US soccer women’s team would obviously seek to argue against the former. As for the latter, why is that?  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a clever PR agent to understand that if you advertise the hell out of hamburgers, you will probably sell a Whopper or two.  This is a key aspect of the lawsuit filed by the US women’s soccer team that is often overlooked by the media – the fact that the women’s team is not marketed or promoted as much as the men, which leads to lower attendances and fewer merchandise sales.  This bias applies to all women’s sports; just look at women’s golf, a game that could do with some good publicity. The United States Golf Association (golf’s largest organisation) should be committed to advocating more openly for its female golfers. If they want to grow the game, they need to show that they value women equally.

In May this year, the US Soccer Federation said that the women’s team generates less revenue from game ticket sales, although they had “invested in marketing and promoting the US women’s national team.” Helpfully, US Soccer did not disclose how much it spent on marketing the women in comparison to the men, an important piece of information needed to decipher whether or not they are actually trying to generate real interest in the women’s game. Nonetheless, the US Soccer Federation has tentatively agreed to commence mediation once the 2019 World Cup concluded and now that the US women’s soccer team has defended their title as World Cup champions, they must turn their attention to a different kind of battle waiting for them at home.

So perhaps this conversation is not about equal pay but equal promotion. Women’s sport and elite female athletes need equal investment (from both governing bodies and sponsors) for these barriers to be brought down. How else can they be expected to develop players, leagues and role models for the next generation of girls? The gender pay gap is a real issue in sport as it is in business and not one that should be ignored but the topic is irrelevant if female athletes do not have the same opportunity to prove their worth before the game has even begun.

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The NBA has announced that it will introduce a new rule in the upcoming NBA summer leagues. If successful, the rule could be implemented next season in the NBA. The NBA anticipates “the rule will be in effect in the NBA next season as a one-year pilot program”.

The rule provides for a new “coach’s challenge” during a game. Coaches will be entitled to one challenge per game. Once used, even if successful, the coach has used their challenge for the entire game. The challenge may be used for called fouls, goal-tending, basket interference and instances where the ball is out of bounds. The challenge cannot be used where referees have missed calls.

To use a challenge, coaches must have a timeout remaining. This means that coaches may start to retain a timeout tactically in particularly important games in order to be able to use their challenge, especially in the dying seconds of a close contest. However, only challenges for personal fouls are permitted in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or the last two minutes of overtime. To use the challenge, the head coach will call a timeout and indicate they are challenging the call. If successful, the team retains their timeout. If not, the timeout is used.

The NBA’s sister league, the G League, has implemented this rule for the past two seasons. In its first season, there were 232 challenges of which 75 original calls were overturned, representing a 32.3% success rate. The following season saw 81 successful challenges from 249 challenges, representing a similar success rate of 32.5%.

The League anticipates that the challenge rule will be rolled out next season on a trial basis and reviewed at the end of the season. For the rule to be implemented, two-thirds of the League’s teams must vote in its favour during a formal vote expected to take place this summer. If the vote goes ahead, it is likely to succeed. Coaches are generally in favour of the rule as it provides another tool for them to use in-game. Coaches gain greater powers of intervention whilst more decisions are ultimately correct due to incorrect calls being overturned. It could also ease tensions between referees and players. Sports Shorts recently addressed the heightening tensions between NBA players and match officials during the Playoffs this season.

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World Rugby has abandoned its plans to launch a new Nations Championship competition after failing to get the necessary support for the project. World Rugby required unanimous backing from the ten nations who comprise the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship by 19 June 2019, however this was never achieved. Sports Shorts previously discussed the pros and cons of the proposal, but it appears that the concerns of some nations have collapsed the project just short of the try-line.

A missed opportunity?

World Rugby released a statement expressing their regret at the failure, stating “despite strong progress in collaboration with unions, competition owners and International Rugby Players, including full engagement on the detailed process of financial due diligence, a lack of consensus on key issues, particularly the timing and format of promotion and relegation, left World Rugby with no alternative but to discontinue the project.”

Seemingly, the final straw in the breakdown of the negotiations was the concept of relegation of top tier teams from the flagship competitions, with Six Nations unions such as Scotland and Ireland believed to be unconvinced on the sustainability and vibrancy of a second division, whilst the RFU commented that the commercial reality of relegation would be “catastrophic.”

Notwithstanding such opposition, the expansion was backed by SANZAAR, the southern hemisphere’s rugby governing body, whose chairperson Brent Impey expressed, “The Nations Championship was a golden opportunity to grow the game internationally but is seemingly lost. SANZAAR remains convinced that such a revamped international calendar is the right course of action supported by professional cross-border competitions such as Super Rugby and the various European premierships.”

Future Investment

It will be interesting to see what direction World Rugby decides to go in, with critical investment choices being paramount to the continued evolution and expansion of the game. The Nations Championship had been given a 12-year, £6.1billion financial pledge by leading sports marketing agency Infront Sports and Media and its Hong Kong-based parent company Wanda Sports. World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said:

“World Rugby undertook this important project with the best interests of the global game at heart in line with our vision to grow the sport as a game for all.

While we are naturally disappointed that a unanimous position on the Nations Championship could not be achieved among our unions, we remain fully committed to exploring alternative ways to enhance the meaning, value and opportunity of international rugby for the betterment of all unions.

This includes our continued commitment to competition and investment opportunities for emerging nations to increase the competitiveness of the international game with a view to possible Rugby World Cup expansion in 2027.”

The field has opened up for external investors to become a major stakeholder in international rugby. Prospective financers include CVC Capital Partners, who have already made a £500million bid to acquire a 30% holding in the Six Nations. In what was termed ‘Project Light’, the Six Nations unions (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France) were in discussions about the commercial expansion of the competition and the interest from CVC presents the most lucrative opportunity to develop international rugby’s oldest competition. This follows CVC’s comparable investment of £200million for a 27% shareholding in England’s Premiership Rugby in December 2018.

The challenge for World Rugby going forward is to ensure an equilibrium of opportunity for all international teams, maintaining the commercial viability of the sport for the advanced nations, whilst preventing smaller, developing nations being precluded from competing due to the lack of financial strength. We await the next blueprint from World Rugby as to how they strategise the continued commercial growth of the sport.

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On 1 May 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) delivered its ruling in the requests for arbitration by Caster Semenya and Athletics South Africa (“ASA”) against the International Association of Athletics Federation (the “IAAF”). CAS dismissed the requests, upholding the validity of the new IAAF Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) (the “Regulations”), which require 46 XY chromosome female athletes with differences in sex development (“DSD”) to reduce their testosterone levels in order to compete internationally in the female classification in certain track events.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal, to which Semenya has now appealed, has since ordered the IAAF to suspend the implementation of the Regulations and has given the IAAF until 25 June 2019 to respond.

 Background

Caster Semenya burst onto the athletics scene in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, where she won gold in the women’s 800 metres at the age of 18. Following her victory, Semenya faced heavy scrutiny from the IAAF and allegations that she was not biologically female and it was announced that she had been subjected to testing in order to confirm her sex. Whilst the results of the tests have never been published, it is understood that Semenya is 46 XY female with DSD, meaning that whilst she is a woman, she has XY chromosomes and DSD, resulting in elevated testosterone levels. She has since gone on to win gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics and at the 2017 World Championships.

The Regulations

In March 2018, the IAAF Council approved the Regulations. These were to come into effect on 1 November 2018 and replace the previously enacted Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition, which were challenged before CAS by Indian 100m sprinter Dutee Chand in 2015 and suspended as a result.

The Regulations require any 46 XY DSD female athlete with 5 nanomoles of testosterone per litre of blood (nmol/L) or above to:

  • be recognised at law either as female or as intersex;
  • reduce her blood testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months; and
  • thereafter must maintain her blood testosterone level below 5 nmol/L continuously i.e. whether she is in competition or out),

if she wishes to compete in the female classification in track events between 400 metres to 1 mile at the international level or set world records.

The Regulations do not prohibit a relevant female from competing in non-international competitions or other events internationally. Affected female athletes are also permitted to compete internationally in the male classification or “any applicable intersex or similar classification that may be offered” (see Regulation 2.6(b) & (c), IAAF Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development)). There are currently no international or national competitions that offer classifications outside the traditional binary categories.

The introduction of these Regulations are premised on the notion that “high levels of endogenous testosterone circulating in athletes with certain DSDs can significantly enhance their sporting performance.” The IAAF believes that these Regulations accordingly ensure “fair and meaningful competition” and that “genetic difference is not outcome-determinative”.

 CAS Ruling

 The two-time Olympic champion and ASA challenged the Regulations, and brought requests for arbitration to CAS, on the basis that they:

  • unfairly discriminate against athletes on the basis of sex and/or gender because they only apply (i) to female athletes; and (ii) to female athletes having certain physiological traits;
  • lack a sound scientific basis;
  • are unnecessary to ensure fair competition within the female classification; and
  • are likely to cause grave, unjustified and irreparable harm to affected females.

 CAS found that the Regulations are discriminatory, as they target a specific subset of female athletes based on their inherent biological characteristics without imposing any restriction on their male counterparts, however it rejected the challenge on the grounds that, whilst discriminatory, the Regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s legitimate objective of ensuring fair competition in female athletics in certain events and protecting the “protected class” of female athletes in those events. The Regulations thus came into force on 8 May 2019.

The CAS Panel did, however, express some serious concerns as to the future practical application of these Regulations and recognised that they were constrained by the “accepted, necessary, binary division of athletics into male events and female events, when there is no such binary division of athletes”, noting that this binary division is not the subject of the challenge.

 Swiss Federal Tribunal Order

 Following the decision by CAS, Semenya appealed to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court on the grounds that “the IAAF’s requirements for compulsory drug interventions violate essential and widely recognised public policy values, including the prohibition against discrimination, the right to physical integrity, the right to economic freedom and respect for human dignity.”

The court has issued a super-provisional order, temporarily suspending the application of the Regulations until a further hearing can take place. Semenya can, therefore, participate in the restricted events internationally without medically altering her testosterone levels until a further decision is made.

 Comment

The Regulations have caused a great deal of controversy and have come under scrutiny from professional bodies. The World Medical Association issued a statement advising physicians around the world not to implement the Regulations and calling for their withdrawal on the basis that it has “strong reservations about [their] ethical validity”. A number of global organisations that promote women’s sport have also written to the IAAF stating that the Regulations enforce gender inequality given they do not apply equally to male athletes.

The Regulations call into debate the point at which natural genetic advantages become “unfair”. Over the decades, many of the sporting elite have bettered their competition thanks to rare physiology. It is arguable that elite sports would not exist at all without these genetic advantages that distinguish world class athletes from the everyday individual – Ian Thorpe’s size 17 feet, Usain Bolt’s fast-twitch long stride, Pete Reed’s 12-litre lung capacity, to name but a few. Indeed, Eero Mäntyranta, the Finnish cross-country skier, was diagnosed with familial and congenital primary polycythemica, a rare blood disorder that results in an increase in the production of red blood cells and thus an increase in oxygen carrying capacity by up to 50%, a notable advantage when competing in endurance events. He went on to win seven medals in three Winter Olympics and his genetic abnormality was celebrated rather than deemed unfair or contrary to fair competition. In the context of sport performance, what makes the natural advantages experienced by 46 XY DSD female athletes remarkable?

Semenya’s challenge and the Regulations themselves create questions in relation to the binary distinction in the world of sport and the Swiss Federal Tribunal is now being tasked with trying to reconcile the existence of the binary male/female athletics system with the biological reality that sex/gender is not binary and instead exists on a spectrum. The current system and the Regulations that accompany it run a real risk, as demonstrated by Semenya’s case, of alienating those individuals who do not conform to the conventional definitions of what it means to be male and female and thus do not fall neatly into either category.

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has renewed his call for a luxury tax system in football. Sports Shorts previously covered the role luxury tax has played in the NBA and the extent to which this could be applied in the game of football in Europe, following similar comments by Ceferin in 2017.

In summary, a luxury tax system would involve the imposition of a cap on the amounts that teams can spend on player salaries (and perhaps transfer spending too) in each season. If a team exceeds the cap, they pay a tax for every dollar, pound or euro spent above the cap. The revenues generated by the tax are then distributed amongst compliant teams who do not exceed the cap.

 Luxury Tax is still needed

UEFA has already identified the need to ensure competitive balance in European football, by implementing the Financial Fair Play (“FFP”) rules in 2011. Ceferin is an advocate for FFP but believes there is a need for a more stringent and straightforward system that translates to fairness between teams on the football pitch.

Ceferin’s suggestion is for UEFA to ease up on the FFP rules and focus its efforts on implementing a luxury tax, which would revolutionise the game while protecting competition. The luxury tax system in the NBA has had a positive impact on balancing competition in the NBA.

The crux of the luxury tax system is to require a club to pay a tax, if they exceed thresholds imposed on how much can be spent on wages (for example), into a communal pot, which is then distributed amongst opponents who have not exceeded the limit. Researchers Olugbenga Ajilore and Joshua Hendrickson analysed the effect of luxury taxes on competitive balance in MLB (Major League Baseball) in the USA, and the results suggest that “the introduction of a luxury tax has reduced the competitive inequality of teams”. When discussing the English Premier League, British academic, Rob Wilson commented that “the league is built on the principles of competitive balance and uncertainty of outcome […] it’s the competition that drives interest“.

 A long process

Talk of implementing a luxury tax system dates back to at least 2009, with UEFA acknowledging the need to tackle competitive imbalance in football at the time. The possibility of introducing a luxury tax seems to be a longstanding topic of discussion in football, but ultimately it may never get further than being the subject of idealistic conversations. Ceferin claims UEFA is “open to any and all reforms that would serve the good of game” and that “some kind of luxury tax would be do-able“.

There are a number of factors, which could hinder the implementation of a luxury tax in European football. For example, in England, the Premier League’s top clubs have fans across the world and, according to one commentator at least, these fans “just want to watch the top three or four teams rather than the whole league“.

The imbalance in revenue and wage bills is becoming clearer: Brighton & Hove Albion FC reported a wage bill for the year to 30 June 2018 of £78,000,000, while Manchester United reported a wage bill of £296,000,000 for the same period.

For the first time, revenues from the sale of overseas broadcasting rights are being divided according to league position, rather than being divided equally between all member-clubs. This will further alter the dynamic between clubs.

Continued discussions indicate that UEFA are at least seriously considering the idea of a luxury tax. If UEFA do implement such a tax, it could revolutionise the game in Europe, ensuring there is competitive balance in the game, which will ultimately make European football more attractive in the long-run.

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Indian Premier League

Over the last decade, the Indian Premier League (“IPL”), a marquee Indian cricket event and an international premier Twenty20 cricket competition, has transformed cricket into more than just a “gentleman’s game.”  The IPL, founded and organized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (“BCCI”), is a cricketing festival that hosts every top Indian and international cricket player, along with a multitude of corporate houses and Bollywood celebrities, making it the richest professional cricket competition worldwide.

IPL’s brand value has increased at a significant pace, and in 2018 its value was approximated at a staggering US$ 6.3 billion. IPL has also established itself as India’s favorite primetime television show.  This can be substantiated by the fact that in 2017 Star India Private Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company India, paid US$ 2.55 billion for its broadcasting rights for a period of five years.

However, the cash-rich league has faced various controversies since its inception; whether they add to or detract from the fascination with the league is itself the subject of debate.

“Mankading” Incident

The recently concluded season of the IPL had its fair share of controversies that garnered public scrutiny.  On March 25, 2019, one such incident occurred during a match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, which sparked a debate over the “Laws of Cricket” versus the “Spirit of Cricket” among the players, pundits, and public in general.

During the 13th over of the Rajasthan Royals” innings, Ravichandran Ashwin, the captain for the Kings XI Punjab, “mankaded” Jos Buttler.  This is to say that Ashwin pulled out of his delivery stride and knocked the bails off the wicket at the non-striker’s end as Buttler had left his crease before the bowl was released.  While awaiting the third umpire’s decision, the players indulged in a serious discussion.  The third umpire declared Buttler out which prompted mixed reactions from everyone.

Origin of “Mankading”

“Mankading” is the act of running a batsman out at the non-striker’s end before the bowler completes his delivery stride or before the ball leaves the bowler’s hand.  Even though mankading is not a new concept to international cricket, this event was the first instance of a batsman being mankaded in the IPL.  The first such recorded instance took place during India’s tour of Australia in 1947 when Vinoo Mankad ran out Bill Brown.  Brown had left the crease before the ball was delivered.  Despite Mankad giving Brown multiple warnings and receiving support from Sir Donald Bradman, the then Australian captain, the Australian Press criticized this act for being against the spirit of the game and coined this controversial way of dismissal as “mankad.”

Past instances of Mankading

Mankading has been a part of cricket for a long time even though it has been considered controversial and sparked a debate every time such an incident has taken place.  Incidentally, mankading is not new at all for the two players involved on March 25, 2019.  In 2012, Ravichandran Ashwin had previously mankaded a Sri Lankan batsman.   Virender Sehwag, the then Indian captain, after consulting with Sachin Tendulkar, decided against it and withdrew the appeal.  Further, in 2014, a Sri Lankan bowler mankaded Jos Buttler and he was considered out.  There have been a few other instances where mankading has been used, including in 1992-1993 by Kapil Dev against Peter Kirsten and in the same period by Dipak Patel against Grant Flower.

Laws of Cricket

The International Cricket Council (ICC), the international governing body for cricket, relies on the Marylebone Cricket Club (“MCC”) for writing and interpreting the “Laws of Cricket.”  According to “Law 41 – Unfair Play” of the Laws of Cricket, the law regarding mankading is clear, straightforward, and as follows:

41.16 Non-striker leaving his/her ground early

41.16.1 If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be Run out. In these circumstances, the non-striker will be out Run out if he/she is out of his/her ground when his/her wicket is put down by the bowler throwing the ball at the stumps or by the bowler’s hand holding the ball, whether or not the ball is subsequently delivered.”

The ICC has specifically incorporated the above-mentioned law in the playing conditions for all the current cricket formats.  Further, the Laws of Cricket have been amended several times in the past; however, this type of run out has always been retained and has resulted in making mankading a legal way to run out the batsman.  In fact, in 2017, the MCC further relaxed and clarified the mankading rule and stated it has long been the position of MCC that if a non-striker leaves his/her ground early, he/she is liable to be run out.  The previous rule allowed bowlers to run out the batsman at the non-striker end only before entering their delivery stride.  However, under the revised law, bowlers are allowed to run out the batsman at the non-striker’s end from the time the ball comes in the play and until the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball.  The MCC had further reiterated that the law emphasizes upon the importance of the non-striker remaining in his/her ground until the ball is released.  Moreover, currently, with television potentially ruling that a batsman has made his/her ground by millimeters, the MCC had stated that it seems wrong to allow them a head-start of several feet in setting off.  MCC also went on to clarify that giving a warning for such dismissals has often been seen as a convention, however, it has never been part of the Laws of Cricket.

Spirit of Cricket

In the 1990s, the “Spirit of Cricket” was sought to be enshrined in the Law of Cricket with the objective of reminding the players of their responsibility of ensuring that cricket should always be played in a truly sportsmanlike manner. The Laws of Cricket include a Preamble on the Spirit of Cricket, which provides for the following:

“Cricket owes much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the Laws, but also within the Spirit of Cricket”

“Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket”

“Create a positive atmosphere by your own conduct, and encourage others to do likewise.”

“Cricket is an exciting game that encourages leadership, friendship and teamwork, which brings together people from different nationalities, cultures and religions, especially when played within the Spirit of Cricket.”

Based on the foregoing, every cricketer in the world is required to not merely obey the Laws of Cricket but are also required to safeguard the Spirit of Cricket.

Debate

Based on the Laws of Cricket, it is clear that the act of mankading is legal and the bowler is well within his/her right to run out the batsmen at the non-striker’s end.  Even the rationale behind allowing such a run out seems logical, as it helps prevent an unfair advantage to a batsman in completing a run.  Batsmen typically try to leave the crease at the non-striker’s end before the bowler releases the ball in order to have some form of momentum when the striker calls for a run and also help in reducing the distance to be covered by the batsman.  Moreover, even in 1947, the first time such an instance took place, Sir Donald Bradman saw nothing wrong with what Vinoo Mankad had done and even went on and stated in his autobiography the following:

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship.  The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered.  If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out?  By backing up too far or too early, the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.”

Accordingly, it can be safely said that based on a review of the Laws of Cricket and the principles and explanations provided by the MCC, Ravichandran Ashwin was well within his right to run out Jos Buttler and the umpire was correct in determining that Buttler was out.  However, while Ashwin has received support from a number of former cricketers, ICC umpires, and pundits, the cricketing world still appears to be divided on whether such an act is against the Spirit of Cricket.

The argument that mankading is against the Spirit of Cricket is based on the fact that it is not a sportsman-like thing to do and it does not involve an encounter between the bat and the bowl, which is the fundamental principle of cricket.  Sportsmanship is regarded as more than just winning a game and in numerous instances across various sports, including cricket, players have given up an advantage that they have deemed to be unfair.  It is believed that one of the most significant examples showcasing that mankading is against the Spirit of Cricket was in the 1987 Cricket World Cup when Courtney Walsh refused to mankad a Pakistani batsman, which was ultimately regarded as one of the best examples of sportsmanship and what cricket truly stands for.  A number of players and pundits are quoted as saying that mankading is a “terrible example for young and junior players.”

It is interesting to note that, in this particular instance, MCC had originally cleared the incident, stating that mankading is well within the laws of the game.  Subsequently, however, MCC stated that this particular incident was not within the Spirit of Cricket as there was a long pause between Ashwin arriving at the crease and the moment it was reasonable enough to expect the ball to be delivered.  MCC even clarified that any deliberate delay in releasing the ball should be considered unfair and against the Spirit of Cricket.  This again raises the issue as to what should be considered as “normally have been expected to release the ball,” which makes the rule of mankading a subjective one.

While the debate on mankading is ongoing and has split the cricketing fraternity, one thing is certain: the law permits mankading, unless the ICC and MCC think otherwise, and this is not the last incident where we will see a player mankading another.  It is also worth mentioning another recent incident, which took place between England and Ireland, where Ben Foakes appeared to have waited patiently for Andy Balbirnie to lose his balance after missing a sweep shot and then knocked the bails off to complete a stumping. This incident has been regarded as similar to mankading and against the Spirit of Cricket; however, we will leave this debate for another day.

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The first over of the 2019 Cricket World Cup will be bowled on Thursday 30 May as England take on South Africa at the Oval.  The World Cup is part of an exciting summer of cricket in this country, with a home Ashes series to look forward to in August.

It is perhaps a foregone conclusion as to the kind of reception Aussies Steve Smith and David Warner will receive from the stands in the wake of their bans for ball tampering.  One can almost see the sand paper costumes already.

However, it is the more widespread and organised threats to the sport’s integrity which are high on the agenda for the International Cricket Council (“ICC”) at the World Cup. 

World Cup Anti-Corruption efforts

Corruption, namely, match-fixing, spot-fixing, bribes, and misusing inside information, is in the spotlight.  Alex Marshall, the General Manager of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (“ACU”) met with teams and the press last week to discuss the ACU’s stance.

Marshall reported on a pro-active approach, which has seen the ACU making contact with a number of known “corruptors” to warn them away from the tournament.  Marshall stopped short of guaranteeing a corruption-free World Cup:  “You can never guarantee that any event will be free of an issue but what I can say is the corruptors know how well protected this event is.”

The ACU is embedding an anti-corruption official into every team for the duration of the World Cup.  The officials will work with teams and promote compliance with the Anti-Corruption Code (“Code”).  Further, players have been shown an educational video, identifying suspected corruptors and putting across the ACU’s message of “recognise, reject and report”.  The ICC vow to work closely with external organisations such as the Gambling Commission, National Crime Agency and the police during the World Cup.

Corruption issues in cricket

There has been a historical issue with match-fixing and spot-fixing in cricket.  One contributing factor to the problem in the sport is unregulated betting, for example the illegal sports betting markets in India.

There have been some high profile cases of corruption in cricket.  The most notable is arguably the deliberate no balls bowled against England in 2010, which ultimately led to prison sentences for the three Pakistan players involved.

The issues continue – just this month, the ICC has charged two Sri Lankan players with alleged match-fixing in the UAE’s T10 league.  Further, the Sri Lankan national team’s performance analyst received a two-year ban in February for bribery and obstruction of the ACU’s anti-corruption investigations.

The particular problem with corruption amongst Sri Lankan cricketers has led to the ICC running their first anti-corruption amnesty.  The amnesty ran in Sri Lanka from 16-31 January 2019 and encouraged the disclosure of information on corrupt activities.  The ICC agreed not to charge those individuals with an offence under the Code of failing to disclose details of any corrupt approaches to the ACU at the time.

The Code and other initiatives

The amnesty is indicative of the ICC’s proactive approach in dealing with corruption issues in the sport.

The Code itself is important in giving the ICC and national cricket boards the power and jurisdiction to tackle corrupt practices.  Significantly, as explained in the Code, the national cricket federations anti-corruption rules are materially the same as the ICC’s Code.  The ICC have jurisdiction for international matches and the national federations for domestic games.  This approach seeks to make the expectations, offences and disciplinary process consistent across the various member countries of the ICC.  An appeals process is built-in (for offences linked to international matches, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport).  The sanctions for corruption offences range from 5 years to a lifetime ban from cricket.  As we have seen with the 2010 ‘no balls’ case, criminal investigations and sanctions are also possible depending on the laws of the country in which the fixing took place.

In addition to the Code, the ICC has also developed the ‘Minimum Standards for Players’ & Match Officials’ Areas’ (“PMOA”).  The PMOA sets out to protect players, officials and other participants from potential approaches by corruptors and unintentional disclosure of team information.  It seeks to achieve this by restricting access to certain areas during international matches.  Within these zones, mobile phones are not permitted, CCTV must cover access points, and security and an accreditation system must be in place.

Other anti-corruption initiatives include the Integrity App, which the ICC launched last year.  The app provides those involved in cricket with information on anti-corruption and anti-doping.  In tandem with the ICC’s efforts, the English Cricket Board (“ECB”) launched its own confidential corruption hotline. Crimestoppers manage the ECB’s hotline, so that any player or other participant can anonymously report information and suspicions around corruption in the sport.

Comment

The ICC and national cricket federations appear to be working well together in a joined-up effort to try to protect the integrity of the sport and deter corruption.  Undoubtedly though, there is a lot of work still to do in preventing those outside of cricket, the organised ring-leaders to whom the Code does not apply, from seeking to corrupt players and make illegal gains.

Match-fixing, spot-fixing and similar betting-related offences are notoriously difficult to evidence.  More intelligence sharing between cricket federations and government agencies, betting companies and other external organisations will be crucial in the long-term.  In the short-term, let’s hope that the 2019 Cricket World Cup will be free from corruption.

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Sports Shorts by Nicholas Zalany - 2M ago

A recent announcement by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is a sign of the ever-increasing popularity of table tennis globally and in the United States, and reminds us of the power of sports to bring people together.

In addition to being an Olympic sport, table tennis holds an annual World Table Tennis Championship, with individual events (men’s and women’s singles and doubles) in odd years and team events in even years.  During this year’s championship held in Budapest, it was announced that Houston, Texas will host the 2021 World Table Tennis Championship, and Chengdu, China will host the event in 2022.  2021 will mark the first time the United States has hosted the event and the first time it will be held outside of Europe or Asia since 1939.  Indeed, ITTF chief executive Steve Dainton said: “We noticed raised interest in hosting the World Championships Finals, due to the expansion of the competition from 2021, which adds even more value and prestige. The quality of the bids we received is fantastic news for table tennis globally.”   To illustrate this added prestige, the 2021 event will be held at Houston’s Toyota Center, a larger and more high-profile venue than is typical for international table tennis events.

The ITTF is among the most inclusive sports federations in the world with 227 countries and territories forming its membership.  Houston, being among the most diverse cities in the United States, was a natural fit to host this international event.  Whereas table tennis in the United States has largely been confined to the basement, competitive table tennis has been steadily gaining in popularity in recent years in the United States, particularly among immigrant communities.  Choosing Houston as the site of the world championships will only further accelerate this process.

Notably, the United States and China agreed to support their respective bids.  Prominent supporters of the bids for Houston and Chengdu included former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and Christopher Nixon Cox, President Richard Nixon’s grandson.  It certainly is no coincidence that 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of “ping pong diplomacy,” when the United States table tennis team was invited to China to play exhibition matches against the Chinese team.  They were the first American delegation in China’s capital since 1949, paving the way for President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.

So whether you call it ping-pong or table tennis, the future of the sport is certainly bright.

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The NBA Draft Lottery takes place on 14 May 2019. As previously reported on Sports Shorts, the lottery is the process by which teams are allocated their position in the order for the NBA Draft. This process determines which team will have the number 1 pick, and thus have priority in choosing the best talent available in the draft (hint: Zion Williamson).

The 14 teams that did not qualify for the NBA playoffs consist of the lottery pool. The process is not dissimilar from the conventional lottery that we may enter at home. There are 1,001 possible numerical combinations, which are divided amongst these 14 teams. The team with the worst regular season record receives the most combinations whilst the team with the best regular season record (of those that did not qualify for the playoffs) receives the least amount of combinations.

This is the first year implementing the NBA’s new rules, which grants the worst three teams the same number of combinations (140, which equates to an equal 14% chance of receiving the first pick in the draft). Previously, the worst team would receive the most combinations and the second worst team receiving the second highest number of combinations etc. The rule change intends on deterring teams from “tanking” during the regular season. If a team has a disappointing season and is out of contention for the playoffs, they may choose to “tank”, which involves resting their best players in the hope of finishing with the worst record. This team obtains the best chances of receiving the number 1 pick and thus the opportunity to rebuild the franchise with the best talent of the draft class. The rule change reduces the incentive to finish the season as the worst team in the NBA.

The 2019 lottery odds are as below.

  1. New York Knicks: 140 combinations, 14.0% chance
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers: 140 combinations, 14.0% chance
  3. Phoenix Suns: 140 combinations, 14.0% chance
  4. Chicago Bulls: 125 combinations, 12.5% chance
  5. Atlanta Hawks: 105 combinations, 10.5% chance
  6. Washington Wizards: 90 combinations, 9.0% chance
  7. New Orleans Pelicans: 60 combinations, 6.0% chance
  8. Memphis Grizzlies: 60 combinations, 6.0% chance
  9. Dallas Mavericks: 60 combinations, 6.0% chance
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves: 30 combinations, 3.0% chance
  11. Los Angeles Lakers: 20 combinations, 2.0% chance
  12. Charlotte Hornets: 10 combinations, 1.0% chance
  13. Miami Heat: 10 combinations, 1.0% chance
  14. Sacramento Kings: 10 combinations, 1.0% chance

Fourteen table tennis balls numbered 1 to 14 are mixed and four numbers are selected. Whichever team holds the revealed combination will be entitled to the first pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. This process allocates the top three picks, with the rest of the order reflecting the teams’ regular season record. This year, the number 1 pick is even more coveted than usual as Zion Williamson declared for the draft and could totally transform a franchise, even in his rookie season in the NBA. Zion’s Duke University reached the NCAA’s Elite Eight whilst he averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game at college. Other hot prospects likely to be snatched up in these first picks include point-guard Ja Morant and forward RJ Barrett.

Whilst the Lakers have a mere 2% chance of receiving the first pick, it is not unprecedented. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls received the first pick to draft Derrick Rose despite having a 1.7% chance whilst the Cleveland Cavaliers received the number 1 pick in 2014 also with a 1.7% chance. Zion Williamson could join the franchise, playing with one of the best players to ever play the game, which could solve a number of the team’s problems. This year’s draft lottery is perhaps the most hotly anticipated in recent years.

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Last year’s dramatic Western Conference final match-up between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets ended with the Warriors winning 4-3. The Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals and achieved their second consecutive NBA Championship. This year, they look to do the three-peat.

The Rockets have a chance for revenge this year, facing the Warriors in the Western Conference semi-final. Despite conceding the first two games held at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena, the Rockets won both games at home, tying the series 2-2.

In true fashion, the series has been dramatic and controversial. In game 2, Draymond Green appeared to scratch James Harden’s eyes whilst competing for a rebound, causing him to temporarily leave the court to receive treatment, whilst Steph Curry dislocated his finger but continued to splash from the 3-point line. The rivalry has been brewing in recent years and is reaching its climax this year as players and coaches from both teams are making their thoughts well known. Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors, appeared to mock James Harden by pretending to fall over, or flop, during a media session – alluding to Harden’s proclivity to draw fouls from opposition players whilst shooting the 3. Kevin Durant was even seen exchanging words with James Harden’s mother at courtside during game 4.

After game 1 and 2 in Oakland, the officiating stole the headlines again. Last summer, Houston prepared a report for the NBA, which claimed that the officiating in last year’s Western Conference finals cost the Rockets the series and quite possibly the championship. The report alleges that the officials missed 81 potential calls or non-calls in Game 7 alone. The theme continues into this year’s series.

After game 1, the Rockets argued that officials were declining to call fouls where Warriors players encroached into the landing zone of Rockets players. This involves a defender moving into the landing zone of an opposition player after they jump to shoot, meaning the player lands dangerously on the defending player. Such conduct from Zaza Pachulia in game 1 of the Golden State Warriors’ Western Conference match-up against the San Antonio Spurs two years ago led to Kawhi Leonard injuring his ankle and unable to feature in the rest of the series. Chris Paul was fined $35,000 after game 1 for “aggressively confronting and recklessly making contact with a game official” having been ejected for his second technical foul.

James Harden insisted he just wanted a “fair chance” and reminded reporters of “what happened a couple years back with Kawhi. Call the game the way it’s supposed to be called and we’ll live with the results.” In game 2, oil was poured onto the controversy as the league appointed Scott Foster as one of the officials. Scott Foster has not officiated a Rockets game since February after the Rockets branded him “rude and arrogant” in a game where Harden was fouled out. The Rockets lost game 2, meaning that they have lost the last seven playoff games in which Foster has officiated. Chris Paul has lost the last 8 games that have also featured Foster as an official.

Fans would much prefer for the series to be defined not by the officiating but by the basketball played by both sides. Complaints concerning officiating have dwindled since the Rockets returned to Houston to level the series whilst Kevin Durant and James Harden are locked in a potentially historic duel. This is the fourth post-season meeting between the teams in the last five seasons with some describing this match up as a classic in the making.

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