On March 24, 2018, at Newlands field in South Africa, Australian test cricketer Cameron Bancroft was captured on camera tampering with the match ball with a piece of sandpaper. It later emerged that the Australian team captain Steve Smith and vice captain David Warner were complicit in the plan. All three men were subsequently fined and suspended.


Following the ball-tampering scandal and public outcry, The Ethics Centre was invited to review the culture of Cricket Australia.

Cricket Australia sits at the centre of a complex ecosystem that includes professional contract players, state and territory associations, broadcasters, sponsors and hundreds of full-time staff. As such, the organisation carries responsibility for the success of our national teams, the popularity of the sport and the financial stability of the organisation. In the aftermath of the Newlands incident, many wanted to know whether the culture of CA had in some way encouraged or sanctioned such a flagrant breach of the sport’s rules and codes of conduct.


Our report found that CA had developed a culture of winning without counting the costs - from senior management to the players on the field.

Using our Everest process, The Ethics Centre’s review of CA was extensive. We spoke at length with board members, current and former test cricketers, administrators and sponsors. We reviewed policies, ethical frameworks and codes of conduct. Our final report ran to 147 pages and contained 41 detailed recommendations. Our key finding was that a focus on winning had led to the erosion of the organisation’s culture and a neglect of some important values. Aspects of CA’s player management had served to encourage negative behaviours.


survey respondents including players and administrators


interviews with players, administrators and stakeholders


documents reviewed including previews reviews, ethical frameworks and policies


recommendations for Australian cricket, Australian team players and CA itself

A Matter of Balance - excerpts from the report

“At the heart of our report into CA is the question of ‘winning’: what counts as a ‘win’, the costs of winning – borne by individuals and institutions – and the limits (if any) to what may be done in the pursuit of success. This question arises on the field of play – and in the halls of cricket’s administration. It touches everything from: on-field tactics to the selection and formation of elite players, to the way in which the ‘business’ of cricket is undertaken. The question affects not just CA – but everyone who plays, supports or enjoys the game of cricket in Australia.

Of all the physical attributes possessed by an elite cricketer, one of the most important is a refined sense of balance. It is balance that allows a bowler to maintain a consistent line and length despite their extraordinary physical exertions. It is balance that allows a batsman to dispatch a ball travelling at close to 150 kph with an elegant cover drive. And it is balance that allows a fielder to take a catch one-handed while their body pitches in another direction.

Australian cricket has lost its balance … and has stumbled badly. The reputation of the game of cricket, as played by men, has been tainted. Women’s cricket remains unaffected.

It would be easy to hold the players publicly named and blamed as solely responsible. They were adults who should have known better than to act in such a manner or to turn a blind eye. Yet, the fault is not theirs alone. The leadership of CA should also accept responsibility for its inadvertent (but foreseeable) failure to create and support a culture in which the will-to-win was balanced by an equal commitment to moral courage and ethical restraint.

While good intentions might reduce culpability – they do not lessen responsibility … especially not for those who voluntarily take on the mantle of leadership.

The truth about Australian cricket and its recent past is not a simple morality tale populated by ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’. Like most things in life, the situation is far more complex – and we do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that nuance can be set aside in favour of simple images painted exclusively in tones of black and white. Cricket will only regain its balance if it accepts that the recent past has achieved both good and bad outcomes, produced by means both right and wrong. This is the challenge for all of cricket’s stakeholders – to accept and address the reality of inherent complexity.

The challenge for cricket’s leadership is more profound – encompassing not only those who lead on the field of play but also leaders at the pinnacle of its administration. It is always difficult to ascribe personal responsibility to individuals for what are, in fact, systemic failures. Indeed, to do so might not be entirely fair. However, as noted above – and elsewhere in this Report – the acceptance of responsibility need not imply personal culpability.

Some of cricket’s challenges are due to structural problems. Some are the unintended effects of good intentions pursued without ethical restraint. In such cases, there is no need for blame or punishment. What is needed is principled leadership and the acceptance of responsibility.

Cricket has a chance to set a better example – and in doing so, to undo much of the harm caused by the incident at Newlands. Whether or not it takes up this option is a matter for the individuals concerned to determine.”

Visit Cricket Australia to read the released report and their response.