Friday, 6 June 2014

Lovely Cricket

As I’m trying to write a book on Sports Criminology I’m sometimes asked - and not just by publisher’s reviewers - what I mean by the term.  Worse I don’t always use the term consistently myself, sometimes speaking of Sport Criminology.  Perhaps, I should speak of Sports Criminologies as both are very diverse.  I’ve played Criminology and studied Sport so should know.

A couple of stories have recently reminded me I’ve not posted here recently and they also illustrate the issue.  Those stories are the ongoing and wide-spread discussion of corruption of sport occasioned by sports betting (latest being fears about potential match fixing in the Scotland v Nigeria football friendly) and the more recent controversy over the run out of Jos Buttler.

But first some ‘gripes’.  As one of the first criminologists to write about ‘green criminology’ - though I called it eco-criminology then - I have seen my call to bring green perspectives to criminology ignored in favour of a criminology of green topics, principally pollution and crimes against animals.  My chapter, 'Matter All Over the Place: Litter, Criminology and Criminal Justice' in Routledge International Handbook of Criminology, talks about litter but also what constitutes 'green criminology’.  I’ll be revisiting this in a paper in Special Edition of Radical Criminology next year.  

Second gripe: I am now positioned by some as a pioneer of Queer Criminology.  I’ve come out and moaned about that here.  In essence my perverse criminology sought to drag discussion of sexualities - gay/straight, cis/trans, polymorphous etc - into criminology and, to an extent versa vice; but this queered criminology appears to have become concerned largely with the wrongs done to LGBTQ peoples at the hands of individuals and the State.

I support the intentions of those green/GBTQ academics and activists but wish some wider work had arisen. What connects these and Sport Criminology is that I already foresee - indeed, have already experienced - a similar fate for it.

When I try to explain Sport Criminology to people they either don’t get it or get it right away.  That is get it wrong, right away.  I’m not surprised that people don’t get it.  A google search on the term ‘Sport Criminology’ finds only this blog and some joint honours courses in Sport and Criminology, that is in studying sport half the time and criminology the other half without any connection.

Those who get it wrong immediately make connections to things like match fixing, crowd violence or off-field crimes of violence by sports stars.  All important but these seem to be well covered already within criminology and journalism.  Hillyard and Tombs (2004: 11) argue ‘Crime has no ontological reality’, I would argue equally that sport too is equally social constructed and therefore sport criminology is doubly impossible.  Those who get it wrong latch on to common-sensical ideas of what crime is and what sport is (they don’t suffer my ontological doubts) and land on obvious crimes obviously associated with obvious sport.  Hence the match-fixing and violence.

So I fully recognise that my purist vision of a criminology(ies) or even a zemiology of what occurs within sport will, for most, become about the corruption and violence that harms the pure notion of sport without examining the harms of sport (though see Brohm’s marxist-inspired Sport, a prison of measured time and Perelman’s coruscating condemnation Barbaric Sport: a global plague).  I hope to encompass all - for and against. 

But turning from my gripes about what has become of green and queer criminology and fears for sports criminology let’s look at something I see as squarely within my purview - recent events in cricket.  Famously cricket is difficult to explain to foreigners and Pippa Middelton’s efforts in Vanity Fair seem to owe much to this tea towel.

These ‘attempts’ to explain cricket can’t come close to explaining the expression, ‘It’s just not cricket!’, which the Urban Dictionary claims is Australian (!) slang for:

Having something that is unjust or just plain wrong done to someone or something.This come from the game of cricket which is regarded as a gentleman’s game were fairplay was paramount.

Its most recent outing relates to the dismissal of Buttler.

Stephen Brenkley says - on the Independent website - Do not say 'it's not cricket' - moral grey areas define the game.  He positions the run out of Buttler as an ethical issue.  Since it involves the Laws it is a legal and, therefore for me, a criminological one.  But the MCC mixes these matters up in its declaration that it, ‘has been the owner of the Laws of Cricket since the 18th century and continues to be a robust law-maker and guardian of the Spirit of Cricket today’.  It is interesting that the section of the website devoted to ‘The Laws in the News’ makes no mention of this ‘news’ as of 5 June 2013.  This may be because the legal position is clear and therefore officially no story.

What do the Laws say?  Rule 38 says: 1. Out Run out

  1. Either batsman is out Run out, except as in 2 below, if, at any time while the ball is in play, (i) he is out of his ground and (ii) his wicket is fairly put down by the action of a fielder.
  2. (a) above shall apply even though No ball has been called, except in the circumstances of 2(b)(ii) below, and whether or not a run is being attempted.

Buttler was out of his ground and the bowler, Sachithra Senanayake, (a fielder) fairly within the law  - but not, many allege, within the spirit - ‘put down’ the wicket.  Brenkley makes no firm conclusion but teases us with discussion of sledging (verbal abuse, that may be illegal on the street) and failing to walk (knowing one was out but in the absence of the umpire’s decision or the growing technology of sports surveillance standing ones ground).  There are clearly ethical, legal and criminological arguments about the comparabilities of these ‘crimes’, ‘breaches’.

The fall out is likely to be more arguments this summer between the parties.  Time will tell if any corrupt practices are behind them.

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