Former England star considers suing Al Jazeera as Mark Wood calls match-fixing claims ‘like boy who cried wolf’
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England fast bowler Mark Wood has dismissed the Al Jazeera fixing claims as baseless and described them as “like the boy who cried wolf” as the game rounded on the investigative documentary aired on Sunday.
The Professional Cricketers’ Association joined the England & Wales Cricket Board in criticising the documentary and Telegraph Sport understands that a former England cricketer is now considering suing the broadcaster over what he claims is a “fake” recording of a phone call with a match-fixing mastermind.
Al Jazeera claimed it had evidence of spot-fixing in seven England matches between 2011-12 and claimed their source successfully predicted 25 out of 26 scoring patterns in a total of 15 international games around the world.
The documentary also included what it claimed was a recording of the former international speaking on the phone to Aneel Munawar, the fixing middle man for D Company, one of the world’s most powerful organised crime gangs.
“Congratulations for the Ashes,” Munawar is heard saying. “The last payment is ready for going in the account. You will be credited in a week.” The alleged player, whose voice was distorted in the documentary for legal reasons, responds: “Lovely.”
Al Jazeera claims a forensic speech scientist had concluded that the recording had not been tampered with, but the player in question told the programme-makers via lawyers that he categorically denies being on the call and says the recording is fake. A source said the player is now considering his options with legal advisors.
The ECB has also criticised the programme and, on Monday, the PCA issued a statement in support of its members facing “unsupported accusations”.
The documentary alleged fixing long before any of the current team were involved in international cricket but Wood also criticised the programme, saying it did not have enough evidence for the claims.
“To be honest I don’t take a lot of notice,” said Wood. “Until Al Jazeera bring out anything concrete, where they name someone or show a piece of evidence, they keep saying there’s this and that there, but never producing anyone or saying there’s any evidence behind it. It’s a bit like the boy who cried wolf, and until they say something I’m not going to believe what they say,” said Wood.
“I haven’t spoken to any of the other players about it,” said Wood. “It’s not news to me. It had no sort of ‘hit’ to it. If they came up with concrete evidence or they said a name and they could prove something then I would be a bit more worried. But at the moment they keep making accusations and there’s nothing behind it so I’m not too fussed.”
The programme also alleged that five matches involving Australia were fixed. Earlier this year, Al Jazeera linked two unnamed Australian cricketers to spot-fixing in the first part of its corruption expose. Two months ago Cricket Australia cleared their players of wrongdoing and, on Monday, issued a joint statement with the Australian Cricketers’ Association.
“The players and the ACA remain committed to taking genuine match fixing claims seriously and cooperating in any investigation process should it be required,” said Alistair Nicholson, the Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive. “However, as I said two months ago, enough is enough when it comes to unsupported accusations which unfairly tarnish players reputations. The players are sick and tired of being subject to accusations, without the proper evidence to substantiate it.”
The PCA has also called on Al Jazeera to hand over all its information to the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit. Al Jazeera has said it will provide its information to Interpol instead believing the ACU sat on evidence of their alleged mysterious fixer, Aneel Munawar, for eight years during which time he continued to try and mingle with cricketers in five-star hotels. At the ICC there is a weariness with mudslinging and lack of concrete evidence.
The ECB’s integrity team is led by James Pyemont, a former cricketer who played for Derbyshire and Sussex before joining the Metropolitan Police, and he has viewed the evidence contained in the documentary.
The ECB described the “limited information we have been given by Al Jazeera” as “poorly prepared and lacks clarity” but said it had been assessed by its integrity team. “Analysis of this by the ECB’s Integrity Team has cast no doubt on the integrity or behaviour of any England player, current or former.”