The International Cricket Council (ICC) is currently delving into accusations regarding France Cricket’s (FC) alleged orchestration of fabricated games to showcase their dedication to women’s cricket in a strategic move to secure funding from the global body.
The initial exposure of this dubious practice came to light through a report by France24, where Tracy Rodriguez, a former French women’s international and board member, disclosed the existence of phantom games. Having been elected to the board in 2021 and leaving earlier this year, Rodriguez decided to act upon her suspicions about the authenticity of the claimed number of women’s games. Her investigations involved visiting supposed match venues, only to find them devoid of any cricket activity.
“I [went] there two or three times, people were having picnics, and kids cycling around at the time of the game,” Rodriguez shared with France24. “Then the day after, I would see the results of the games online.”
In a parallel effort, France24 undertook a similar investigation, attending matches at scheduled times and locations, only to discover no games taking place. An example cited was a women’s second division game north of Paris, where no match occurred, yet FC subsequently validated it and posted results on their website.
The report also discloses the intricacies of the funding FC receives from the ICC, emphasizing that a substantial portion is earmarked for the development of women’s and junior cricket. James Worstead, coach of a fourth division men’s team, revealed the pressure on clubs to fake matches, stating that most clubs engage in such practices to meet the requirement of having a women’s team for men’s teams to participate in top leagues.
Worstead explained, “Most clubs cheat, they pretend to have a women’s team. They pay for licenses and then they fake score sheets online… We have refused to fake matches, and that means that even if we qualify, we’re likely to never be able to get a promotion.”
The report highlights the fines imposed on clubs unable to field teams for games, revealing a significant increase in fines during the year FC mandated clubs to have women’s and junior teams. Interestingly, as evidence of phantom matches surfaced in the 2022 season, the income from fines decreased significantly.
Furthermore, complaints from various individuals in the French cricket community reached the ICC, including Marjorie Guillaume, a former FC CEO. Guillaume claimed marginalization from budgetary involvement and noted “a lot of incoherence” in the way FC discussed its budgets. Andrew Wright, the head of ICC’s European region development, emphasized the existence of a process to ensure the accuracy of cricket activity levels within a country.
Despite legal declarations signed by boards confirming the veracity of the information provided, the ICC is yet to receive the latest data from FC. FC has opted for a right of response, intending to address the allegations through France24 first. The seriousness with which the ICC is treating these allegations reflects the potential ramifications for the integrity of the sport and the allocation of crucial funding.