Set for a great divide

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Set for a great divide

ICC’s plan to restructure its administration will have far-reaching consequences in the cricketing world

It has been a while since an occurrence related to the International Cricket Council (ICC) was discussed so much in detail and with a tinge of fear. A draft proposal by a working group of the ICC’s Finance and Commercial Affairs committee has stirred up the hornet’s nest. At the core of this recommendation is a massive structural overhaul of the ICC, giving unprecedented powers to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) – the three major power-brokers of world cricket.

There are some radical suggestions like abandoning the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) with bilateral agreements between boards coming in place and, of course, the most contentious of the lot – a new finance model for the distribution of the ICC revenue. If approved in the ICC meet to be held on Dubai on January 28 and 29, the proposal will see India getting 21.9 per cent of its share, ECB 4.8 per cent and CA 2.9 per cent, while South Africa, the top-ranked Test nation, will get a mere 1.3 per cent, and the rest some meagre shares.

It has left the ‘lesser’ boards understandably an unhappy lot. At home, the BCCI follows the system of equal distribution of its income between the associations affiliated to it, but strangely, at the international level they want the lion’s share. But do the smaller members have the courage to stand up against this move?

“Well, we need to be realistic. We don’t have too much influence on the table to initiate a movement against the Big Three. We will certainly put forward our views on this matter. It will require a majority in the quarterly meeting of the ICC Executive Board — that’s seven out of 10 votes. We can only hope that all other nations stand united and defeat this non-democratic proposal,” said a representative from one of the member nations.

One of the clauses in the 21-page ‘Position Paper’ says that the key posts in the ICC like Chairman, the heads of the new Executive Committee and the Financial and Commercial Affairs Committee will be nominated by BCCI, ECB and CA. Many members felt that such a move will lead to oligarchy even though the move is painted as one to save the future of Test cricket and retain its primacy. 

The Pakistan Cricket Board was vocal about their stand against the proposals. “This is clearly not done. All nations should be treated equally in a world body like the ICC, and we will oppose any move to give a few nations preference over others. Let it be any criteria – financial or anything on those lines – a few boards can’t control the ICC and the game. It needs to remain a level playing field for the good of the game,” said a PCB official.

There might be a chance that the PCB might try to form an alliance with South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand in the meeting to impede any positive response for the proposal. That Cricket South Africa too has voiced its concern over the draft has emboldened some of the other nations.

“The proposal, evidently, is inextricably tied up with the fundamental restructuring of the ICC, which has far-reaching constitutional implications. The draft proposal, therefore, is fundamentally flawed as regards the process and, therefore, in breach of the ICC constitution. In the circumstances, we propose that the draft proposals be withdrawn immediately given that the proper procedure have not been followed,” Chris Nenzani, president of the CSA, wrote to the world body after the proposals came to light.

It’s not just the financial implications of the proposal or the fact that three boards will divvy up major share of profit among themselves that worry some of the member nations. They believe doing away with the ICC-controlled FTP will create a situation wherein the big boys totally ignore countries like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and some other emerging nations as playing against them is simply not a financially viable option.

The world cricket will become a fiefdom of India, Australia and England and they will determine their opponents, venue, timing and all other formalities that go along with a series. “It’s a dangerous situation as the minor nations like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh could be sidelined forever. You are talking about spreading cricket to countries like Afghanistan and places like that. Then you come up with a proposal that gives all powers of fixing tours to three nations, and are there any guarantee that they will look beyond their own financial interests?

“We can argue that Bangladesh or Zimbabwe doesn’t tour to other countries often, particularly to the big nations like India anyway, and so, what’s the big deal about all this. But the point is that these nations may be denied even the chance of playing against India, England or Australia. It’s not good for the overall development of the game – cricket in some of these nations could even slide to extinction if they were denied a chance to compete with the big boys,” said a representative from one of the ICC members.

But those thoughts are far from the minds of the troika that seem firm on going to any extent to get the approval for the proposals. India categorically stated that their continued participation in the ICC events would be subject to the governing body giving green signal to the draft. It’s a scaring thought for all future hosts of ICC events because the income will dwindle considerably without India featuring in the tournament.

England and Australia have not given such a blatant ultimatum, but it’s clear that on whose side they would align if an open struggle for power breaks out.

Ehsan Mani, former ICC president, summed up the situation quite nicely. “The three Boards have completely undermined the integrity and standing of the ICC, its President and the Board of Directors in promoting their own agenda without due and proper discussion by the Board. Clearly, the right standard of boardroom behavior is not seen to be in place,” said Mani.

Storm clouds, certainly, are gathering in force over the cricketing world, and all eyes will be on the Dubai meeting this week.

* Key posts in the ICC will be headed by officials nominated by BCCI, ECB and CA.
* Individually negotiated bilateral contests to replace FTP.
* BCCI to get 21.9 percent of ICC revenues, ECB 4.8 percent and CA 2.9 percent.
* South Africa, the top-ranked Test nation, will receive just 1.3 percent under the system.
* Promotion and relegation system to come in a two-tier Test set-up but India, England and Australia will be exempted from relegation.
* Champions Trophy 50-over tournament to continue.

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