The ECB has tightened up its anti-corruption guidelines by banning players from wearing smartwatches on the field of play in all fixtures.
Previously, the governing body had allowed players to wear smartwatches on the field of play, under the proviso that communication or data transmission facilities would be switched off in televised games.
But with the vast majority of fixtures now available to watch live worldwide thanks to the growth of live-streaming services in the county game, the regulations have been tightened, meaning that smartwatches are completely banned in televised games and are permitted in the players’ and match officials’ areas (dressing rooms, balconies, dugouts) only in non-televised games.
The opportunity for information exchange under the old regulations came to light at the end of the 2019 County Championship season when Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire spinner, revealed that he had found out about his first England call-up via a notification on his team-mate Steven Croft’s smartwatch.
Neither player contravened any anti-corruption policies in that instance, but the ECB is hopeful that the change in regulations will ensure the integrity of players is not brought into question.
While smartwatches are now banned on the field of play, in the nets and in practice areas, players will still have access to their mobile phones in the dressing room during non-televised games.
Smartwatches have been banned in international cricket for several years. In 2018, Asad Shafiq and Hasan Ali were told by anti-corruption officials to stop wearing them during a Test at Lord’s.
As is the case in televised domestic matches, players and officials are obliged to hand in their phones and other such devices at the start of play. They are then locked away and returned at stumps.
There is also now a distinction between non-televised games classified as ‘Tier 2’ (limited-overs) and ‘Tier 3′ (County Championship), with looser regulations for the latter games allowing families to access players and match officials’ areas. Previously, minimum standards had applied only for televised games, but the ECB has decided that accreditation and stewarding should be required at all matches.
An ECB spokesperson said: “We review the anti-corruption codes and PMOA minimum standards on a yearly basis so that they remain relevant to the current threats and risks to cricket.”