In 1994, Don Topley became the first man to blow the whistle on corruption in cricket, a stance for which he was ridiculed by players and ostracised by the authorities. Topley has never forgotten how he was treated. He believes his allegations about collusion between Essex and Lancashire in 1991 were never properly investigated.
Topley feels that there was a sense of awful inevitability about Westfield’s case. “I do not believe Merv’s is the only incident of spot-fixing in domestic cricket,” he said. “I know how easy it is to manipulate a game. But the cover-ups and whitewashes are serious. The way the boards turned a blind eye to what was happening allowed fixing to evolve to the cancerous scenario of today.”
He added that a culture of denial in the game was exacerbated by there being “too many poachers turned gamekeepers” involved in administration and the media.
Topley told a newspaper in 1994 about how “with a nod and a wink” the results of Essex’s Sunday League and Championship matches against Lancashire were fixed. But Topley’s claims were never accepted by the ECB. In 2001, he said that a “whitewash” investigation into his revelations had left a “festering sore in English cricket”.
The “viperous” fallout from the case hurt Topley — “it undoubtedly cost me jobs as a coach in the professional game” — and he ended up teaching at a school in Suffolk. But the case of Westfield now only adds to his strength of conviction. “I stand by everything. I told the truth, and I sleep very easily over it,” he said. “There are many others who don’t.”
Read the full story in The Cricketer, on sale from Friday.