AS has been the case since its inception, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) grabbed the nation’s attention this year, too, with people coming in impressive numbers to the stadiums in an attempt to witness their favourite cricket stars. From Rawalpindi to Karachi, the nation surely was gripped by a cricket fever as it served as a welcome break for the people constantly bugged by the ongoing socioeconomic and political strife.

However, there is one thing about the PSL that apparently crept in under the radar in the last few seasons. The presence of certain ‘sports-based’ advertising companies raised eyebrows.

New companies that were not really household names when it comes to being PSL sponsors in the initial seasons of the League suddenly appeared in the last year or two.

These companies have invested a lot of capital in seemingly innocuous advertisement campaigns. Upon closer inspection, however, these companies seem to be related to betting companies based elsewhere in the world.

They have seemingly changed their names slightly due to the fact that betting is illegal in Pakistan under the relevant laws, including the Prevention of Gambling Act, 1977.

For example, the word ‘bet’ in a brand’s name has been replaced by ‘bat’ or ‘news’. A case in point is ‘DafaNews’ instead of ‘Dafabet’. The websites of such companies appear to be regular sports news or sports equipment platforms, but it does not take one long to put two and two together, and conclude that these are actually owned by or related to betting companies.

Religious or moral issues notwithstanding, this represents a bigger problem. Pakistan has had a chequered past with respect to spot-fixing and match-fixing, with numerous players having been caught and punished. The most famous instance, of course, relates to London in 2010 during a Test match against England. Many other cricketers have reported advances from bookies and booking agents, and were lucky to get away with minor punishments.

Former Test cricketer and captain Rashid Latif, who has always been vocal against the evil, has also raised eyebrows against such companies being allowed to be sponsors of Pakistan cricket’s marquee tournament, and using this platform as an advertising space.

As such, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and other relevant stakeholders should revisit the matter and be careful in the future about who they want to allow to associate with the brand of PSL.

Ahmed Hasan Ansari
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023

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