When the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced a life ban on former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent in July 2014, it came just hours after the player admitted in a video statement that he was a cheat who fixed matches.
That statement – one of the more sincere mea culpas in cricket’s history – had the potential to impact more positively on the sport than innumerable expensive education campaigns.
While there was speculation that the 35-year-old’s public confession could have had some compensatory effect on his punishment, the ECB decision made it clear that Vincent will never be able to coach, advise or even conduct lessons for children in his chosen sport.
Vincent accepted his fate, saying in his statement: ‘It is entirely my fault that I’ll never be able to stand in front of a game again. It’s entirely my fault that I will not be able to apply my skills in a positive way to help future cricketers, but it is entirely possible that I can use this moment to convince others not to be tempted by wrongdoing’.
In his bare and seemingly heartfelt confession, Vincent gave cricket a fulcrum for the necessary learning and growing conversations around the impacts of corruption.
English cricketer Stuart Broad, in commenting on Vincent’s case, noted that there was no longer an excuse for naivety.
‘We sit through the most boring of lectures saying “watch out for this” or “watch out for that” and are given helplines and all that sort of thing ... if you get a life ban from cricket then what on earth are you going to do with your life? That might make you think twice about doing something silly.’
Some commentators noted the unusual nature of Vincent’s statement, in which he did not attempt to explain or justify his actions, or publicly point fingers.
Vincent’s statement was a model for how to humbly own up to wrongdoings and to be accountable, without the all-too-frequent justification and defence of actions and motives we hear from others involved in sport.
In his statement he also acknowledged that the sport’s own mechanisms had helped him come forward, in particular the International Cricket Council’s Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), which Vincent said provided help and support for all players and ‘has helped me a great deal’.
In making his statement public and cooperating with authorities, Vincent has also stopped the sport and cricketing media from getting bogged down in speculation around his case, allowing cricket to move on and focus its resources and attention on other investigations.
Finally, Vincent’s example has also provided a wake-up call for players on their responsibilities to the sport. As he says:
‘For sport to prosper it is up to players to police the game, because they are the ones that will ultimately lose out and allow themselves to be used as pawns to make money.'
‘No one should ever be put in a position and no one should ever allow themselves to forget what sport is about and let money rule their decisions. The decisions I made were wrong. Players must be better than that; above reproach, for the fans, for the sport.’