The Sports Law & Policy Centre | Cricket Australia Bans Three Cricketers for Ball Tampering Incident
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Cricket Australia Bans Three Cricketers for Ball Tampering Incident

On 28 March, 2018, CA, the governing body for cricket in Australia announced sanctions against the Australian cricketers Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, for their roles in an allegedly pre-meditated plan to tamper with a cricket ball in the 3rd test of Australia’s ongoing tour of South Africa.

Steve Smith and David Warner, who were previously captain and vice-captain of Australia’s test team, respectively, were banned from playing domestic and international cricket for 12 months, while Cameron Bancroft was similarly banned for 9 months. In addition, Smith and Bancroft would not be considered for leadership positions in Australia’s domestic and international teams for a period of 24 months whereas Warner would not be considered for a team leadership position for the remainder of his career.

CA’s sanctions were announced following an investigation conducted by CA’s Head of Integrity. Notably, each of the cricketers was charged with committing an offence under Section 2.3.5 of Cricket Australia’s Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personal (“CA Code”). Section 2.3.5 is a catch-all provision that does not address ball tampering specifically, but is designed to cover any offences not addressed elsewhere in the Code and covers any conduct which:

  • is contrary to the spirit of the game;
  • is unbecoming of a representative or official;
  • is or could be harmful to the interests of cricket; or
  • does or could bring the game of cricket into disrepute.

The sanctions awarded by CA were relatively tougher as compared to the punishments handed down by the International Cricket Council, which suspended Smith for one Test match and handed out fines to Smith and Bancroft, but not Warner. The disparity in the sanctions awarded by the CA and ICC can be attributed to the fact that “ball tampering” is considered as a relatively minor Level 2 Offence under the ICC’s Code of Conduct.

With respect to the sanctions imposed by CA, all three cricketers have the right to appeal the findings of CA as well as the sanctions themselves in a hearing in front an independent commissioner. Following the sanctions imposed by Cricket Australia, the BCCI also separately banned Smith and Warner from participating in IPL 2018.

Impact

The severity of the sanctions announced by CA against the three cricketers is unprecedented considering the nature of the offence committed.

It must be clarified, however, that CA’s sanctions are based on the wider offence of bringing the game into disrepute and reflect the reputational damage that has been caused to the Australian cricket team’s image as a result of this incident.

This reputation damage has also had commercial implications, with at least one sponsor terminating its association with CA and the cricketers involved losing lucrative endorsements and wages under CA and IPL contracts.

With an auction for the next cycle of CA’s broadcast rights fast approaching, CA will be hoping that the action taken will limit the potential devaluation of such rights. Should the players choose to appeal, the legality of these grounds and proportionality of the sanctions will be tested.