ACA chief Alistair Nicholson said the penalty should have been wholly suspended in recognition of the “comedy of errors” that enabled Smith to access her phone in a restricted zone.
But Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts said the governing body had showed “good judgment” for effectively imposing a three-month ban despite heavier sanctions being available.
The ban rubs out Smith for the rest of the WBBL and WNCL, and also prevents her playing at club level.
Smith, who has been dealing with the issue for more than two weeks, has moved home to Melbourne to be with family and friends. She is said to be devastated.The 24-year-old faces a battle to win a WNCL contract, valued at $26,000, for next season, though Cricket Tasmania chief Nick Cummins said she would be assessed on her cricket.
It was unclear on Wednesday if the ACA will take further action, with their focus on Smith’s wellbeing.
Nicholson said anti-corruption and integrity measures in the game were “critical” but there were mitigating circumstances that should have reduced the penalty.
The consequences for her and her career and welfare are considerable for an innocent mistake.
ACA chief Alistair Nicholson
“The context is important, it’s really a comedy of errors,” Nicholson said on the radio station SEN on Tuesday. “Officials are supposed to take away the players’ phones and you had here where it was a rain delay, on, off, on, off. The player actually had their phone when the system shouldn’t have let her have it.
“It’s heavy-handed but the reality is she was in a position she shouldn’t have been anyway. From our point of view, whilst corruption and integrity is very important and Emily has accepted the sanction, it should have been fully suspended.
“She’s now not able to play cricket over summer, she’s not even allowed to play club cricket. The consequences for her and her career and welfare are considerable for an innocent mistake.”
Nicholson said Smith had accepted the sanction and would not appeal but believed there were broader ramifications in regards to growing the women’s game.
“She did something wrong, the severity is what we have the issue with, and the broader piece around getting more females to play the game and things like that. This is a pretty heavy-handed consequence for Emily,” he said.
“It’s been a real shock, a scenario which wasn’t something she was expecting and now she has to move her life back to Victoria and she’s dealing with that. It’s a real change. She was in the middle of a sporting season and all of a sudden her life’s thrown upside down.”
Roberts, though empathetic to Smith’s plight, said the integrity of the game was “paramount”. CA accepted there was no intent to breach the code but “rigorous” education meant there was no excuse.
“The unfortunate thing is the action Emily took seems really insignificant but the unfortunate outcome is it puts the integrity of the game at risk,” Roberts said.
“What can’t be argued here is it was clearly a breach of the anti-corruption code for providing inside information. The team at CA used good judgment in terms of suspending nine months of the 12-month sanction.”
Roberts said players communicating with Smith immediately after her post were aware it was a breach of the anti-corruption code.
Roberts said the Hurricanes could have done more to prevent the breach but “it wasn’t team management who breached the anti-corruption code or used Emily’s phone for any reason”.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald