FanCode ‘tricked’ by Sri Lankan T20 league fraudsters

Indian digital sports platform FanCode has said it was tricked into streaming a fraudulent T20 cricket competition last month, in a remarkable case that is under investigation by police and cricket authorities.

Last month, news emerged of a T20 cricket tournament due to take place in Sri Lanka at the end of June, the Uva Premier League. The tournament was to take place in Uva province, apparently under the auspices of the Uva Province Cricket Association (UPCA), and to feature several Sri Lankan cricket stars. FanCode agreed to carry streaming coverage of the event after being approached by the organisers.

The tournament and its streaming coverage began on June 29, but at the end of that day FanCode was contacted by Sri Lanka Cricket to say the tournament not been sanctioned by them or the UPCA.

Indian news outlets have reported that the games FanCode streamed were actually played near the Indian city of Chandigarh, and the tournament appears to have been created by fraudsters running a match-fixing scam. Anti-corruption units at the International Cricket Council, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Sri Lanka Cricket and police in Mumbai and Chandigarh are now investigating the matter.

The Indian Express reported that, on July 6, police in Punjab had arrested several men, including a Ravinder Dandiwal, in connection with the matter. Dandiwal is reported to also be the head of an international tennis match-fixing syndicate, which is currently under investigation in Australia after arrests in Melbourne in June.

Dandiwal is reported to have led a group that booked a cricket ground near Chandigarh to run the Uva Premier League, gathered teams and players, and arranged for the streaming of the competition. As well as on FanCode, the matches were also streamed on YouTube. Police have said that mobile applications were used to organise betting on the matches, but that the organisers were working with the bookies who were offering bets to control what happened during the matches.

The Times of India has published a detailed timetable of the events surrounding FanCode’s agreement with the tournament’s organisers. The company was engaged in discussions by two representatives of the organisers on June 25th, who provided emails approving the tournament that appeared to be from the UPCA and SLC chief operating officer Jerome Jayaratne. The Times of India reported that the veracity of these emails is under investigation.

At the time of the correspondence with FanCode, an official website for the event was also up and running; it has since been taken down. The tournament representatives provided other details including the apparent location of the tournament including photos, as well as team squad lists.

On the eve of the tournament, the organisers contacted FanCode to say that they had not been able to secure the participation of the big-name players promised as they had not been able to meet their ‘commercial expectations’.

FanCode said it immediately stopped streaming the matches after SLC’s notification that it had not sanctioned the league. The company said it contacted the organisers for an explanation but received no reply, and the telephone numbers that the league representatives had been using were deactivated. FanCode then reported the matter to the SLC’s anti-corruption unit, and later to the Mumbai police and the BCCI anti-corruption unit.

The Times of India reported that the police investigation into the episode continues.