DURBAN Heat batsmen Morné van Wyk walks through plumes of smoke to bat at Kingsmead on Friday, unaware of the off-field drama which has prompted questions about illegal sports betting and match-fixing still shrouding the game

Durban - Two British citizens allegedly linked to illegal sports betting and match-fixing syndicates were arrested at Kingsmead Stadium during the Mzansi Super League (MSL) match on Friday.

The pair, who were in a hospitality suite watching Durban Heat play Jozi Stars, are said to have been banned from Cricket South Africa (CSA) fixtures.

It was the second instance of suspected match-fixers being arrested during an MSL fixture.

MSL head Russell Adams confirmed that two other men were arrested in Paarl when the home team, Paarl Rocks, clashed with Tshwane Spartans on November 18.

He said that CSA always deployed members of its anti-corruption security unit at matches, but he was not prepared to divulge further details about the arrests.

CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe said his organisation was concerned that the integrity of the game was under threat and had upped efforts in the MSL to root out corrupt activities.

The MSL, a CSA premier T-20 cricket competition, began on November 16 and ends on Sunday.

Attorney Roy Singh, representing the two men arrested in Durban, said his clients denied having any links to illegal sports betting or match-fixing.

Singh’s clients, who are aged 34 and 35 years old and are both businessmen, have yet to make a court appearance.

After being detained temporarily at Durban Central police station and charged with trespassing, they were released on R500 bail each. They are due in court this week.

Singh said he had been instructed by the men to institute a high court action against CSA for its “unlawful arrest and to challenge the bans imposed on them”.

“If my clients were banned by CSA, why did they sell tickets to them?” Singh asked.

The men were seated in the “Kings Suite” when they were arrested.

Singh said his clients were in the country for a week and had decided to watch the cricket in Durban on Friday.

“While in the suite, security officials pounced on them and questioned them about their attendance as they said they were banned.

“They were also interrogated by CSA officials about sports betting and match-fixing.

“At the police station, I was able to show the officers that there was no evidence in their possession to prove that my clients were involved with match-fixing or sports betting and I asked for them to be released.”

Singh said he was able to substantiate that his clients had not trespassed as they had valid CSA tickets to attend the match.

“My clients believe the authorities acted on hearsay evidence that they were involved with sports betting and match-fixing, which eventually led to their arrest.

“Therefore, they’ve asked me to pursue the matter with the high court,” said Singh.

Moroe said CSA had previously called for strong vigilance from all participants and advised that it would be strictly monitoring any suspicious activity in stadiums during the MSL, as part of its enhanced anti-corruption protocols.

“The protocols included the sighting of any person deemed to be engaging in betting activities or the facilitation of betting activities within stadiums. Such persons will be removed from the stadium and face possible arrest.

“With the use of enhanced technology, match-fixers are using people posing as fans in the stadium to relay live data to illegal betting houses functioning abroad.

“To prevent such activities, we have strengthened our in-stadium monitoring and protection capabilities, including the active surveillance of crowd activities.

“Cricket-loving fans will recognise the risk that corrupt activities present to the game.

“We call on all fans to assist us in reporting any ‘live’ betting-related activities from any viewing areas within the stadium so that these can be monitored and addressed,” said Moroe.