Cricket Australia succeeds in upholding a four-match ban for Sydney Sixers bowler Tom Curran for intimidating an umpire

Cricket Australia v Tom Curran

On 11 December 2023, English Sydney Sixers’ star bowler, Tom Curran, was warming up for a Big Bash League cricket game in Launceston, Hobart. During the warm-up, players are not permitted to run onto the pitch, and one of the umpires was standing guard next to the stumps to ensure that Curran did not run onto the pitch.  Despite this, video footage of the incident showed that Curran ran directly toward the umpire at pace causing the umpire to move out of the way to avoid a possible collision.  While no actual collision occurred, Curran was charged by the match referee with breaching Article 2.17 of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct. 

A copy of footage showing the incident is available on the Internet and can be viewed here.

Curran contested the charge which was heard and determined by Cricket Australia’s code of conduct Commissioner Adrian Anderson.  After being found guilty and suspended for four matches, Curran appealed the decision.  At the time, his club, the Sydney Sixers, issued a statement in which they said:

Tom and the club maintain that Tom did not knowingly or intentionally intimidate a match official, and on legal advice, we will exercise our right to appeal the decision…”

The Cricket Australia Code of Conduct (Code) regulates the conduct of cricketers, including those participating in the Big Bash League.  Article 2.17 provides for the offence of:

Intimidation or attempted intimidation of an Umpire…whether by language or conduct (including gestures) during a Match.”. 

The Code provides that the phrase “during a Match” covers “all conduct which takes place at the ground on the day of a Match” and it states that “Article 2.17 is intended to cover any form of intimidation of an Umpire” and includes “any form of intentional behaviour that would cause the person at whom it is being directed to fear injury or harm…”

Mr Curran’s appeal was heard by an Appeals Commissioner appointed by Cricket Australia. The Appeals Commissioner dismissed the appeal and upheld the four-match ban.  After the decision dismissing the appeal, Mr Curran issued a statement in which he said, among other things that he regretted “…the resultant impact for Umpire Qureshi” and that “My intention was always to veer off to Umpire Qureshi’s right… . I had never considered running into him and never considered that he would think that was my intention.”

Given the Sydney Sixer’s statement about lack of intent, and Mr Curran’s statement set out above, it is apparent that one of the matters in issue was whether an intention to intimidate is an element of the Article 2.17 offence.  In other words, taking Mr Curran at his word and assuming that he did not intend to intimidate the umpire, would that be enough to avoid the charge?

The reasons why the appeal was dismissed have not been made public.  However, on one view, provided the conduct was intentional (as was Mr Curran’s practice run up in this case), and provided the umpire did, in fact, “fear injury or harm” as a result of the conduct, it seems likely that the Article 2.17 offence would be proved regardless of the player’s intention.

No doubt, there will be different views as to the appropriateness of the four match ban in this case.  Some may consider it too onerous, others too light.  However, the role of umpires in cricket (or any sport) is critical to its ongoing success.  Umpires must “feel safe” and the actions of any player which cause an umpire to “fear injury or harm” – regardless of intention – cannot be condoned. To his credit, Mr Curran apologised for his actions after the appeal was dismissed. 

Nevertheless, cricketers subject to the Code (and others who may be subject to similar codes) should be aware that deliberate behaviour that causes an umpire to fear injury or harm is likely to fall foul of the Code – and result in suspension – regardless of whether the player intended to cause intimidation or not.

***The author acted for Cricket Australia in the appeal.  All references are to publicly available information.

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