The three bad wolves and seven little pigs

Australia

The ICC is not, and never has been, a true governing body for the sport. It is a gentleman's club for the 10 full members and almost every decision is made on the basis of cattle trading and self-interest.

The machinations of the cricketing illuminati have entered the public consciousness in the last week with the leaked position paper drafted by (some of) the Finance and Commercial Affairs committee of the ICC.

The report gives us a vision for the future of cricket that sees the dominance of India, and their closest competitors in money matters – England and Australia, formalised. For over a decade India have held all the cards and got to look at their opponents hand before they made their play. What we have seen laid out in this draft document is that dominance being laid bare for all to see.

The proposals cede control of the ICC to the 'Big 3' boards of India, Australia and England. They get permanent places on cricket's UN security council, they get a larger slice of the money from ICC events, they get guaranteed places in the top flight of the proposed first division of the new Test match structure. The Future Tours Programme is scrapped in favour of a return to bilateral organisation of fixtures.

Anyone who has spent any time watching the goings on of cricket's administrators will tell you that reform is badly needed. The ICC is not, and never has been, a true governing body for the sport. It is a gentleman's club for the 10 full members and almost every decision is made on the basis of cattle trading and self-interest.

Votes from the smaller boards are bought by the big ones for lucrative tours from the big boys. Expansion of the sport has always taken a back seat to making sure the TV money pie is sliced up between the top boards.

While reform is needed a further centralisation of power is not the answer. While the position paper is full of worthy words like 'meritocracy' and 'ensuring the primacy of Test cricket', it also talks about Test series being economically unviable. It talks of the smaller boards standing on their own two feet while giving them less money from ICC events.

We are told that India brings in 80% of the revenue world cricket produces. They are without doubt the country that makes the TV money roll in. They are doing very well for themselves. They are certainly not short of cash.

With them making so much money from bilateral series and the hugely profitable Indian Premier League it makes their demand for more money from the ICC pot less understandable, not more. They don't need the cash, the boards that are struggling to make ends meet do.

While India are the economic powerhouse of world cricket, to say that the other boards they play against are not worthy of financial support is to completely disregard the interdependence that is at the heart of full member cricket.

Without teams to play against them India do not have a product to sell. Without those teams playing against each other while they are not playing India there is no context for the fixtures against the big boys.

They will not be able to be competitive in the games they do play against India if they are not regularly playing cricket against each other. If ensuring the future of international, and Test, cricket is the aim of these boards they are missing how important the smaller boards are to them.

It boils down to what the administrators of a sport are for. Is there job to maximise revenue for themselves or is their job to grow the sport's footprint. Are these men the executives of a global money making enterprise or are they there to act as custodians of the sport.

If you believe sport is just another business then the decision to rest all the power in the hands of those that make the most cash could be seen as a legitimate business move, albeit a short sighted one.

However, if you think that sport should make money to exist, not exist to make money this decision is the worst kind of money grabbing that damages the future of cricket.
While at the ICC the now CEO of South African cricket, Haroon Lorgat, commissioned a report into the future governance of cricket.

The Woolf report set out the need for cricket to be run for cricket, not for the benefit of the full members of the ICC. That report has been ignored, and this position paper is an absolute rejection of it.

Looking for the positives in this report is hard. The possibility of nations outside the top ten making their way into the top tier of Test cricket is a good thing. A small concession to the expansion of the game while further centralising power. Ireland and Afghanistan have a route map to Test cricket under this new two division structure. They would have to fight hard to get there, but it gives them a chance.

These plans would also give more money to the top six associate countries, and money for aspiring cricket nations is undoubtedly a good thing. The issue is that cricket is played by 107 countries if we use ICC membership as a guide.

Cricket can be a truly global sport, offering further money making opportunities in countries like the USA, China and countless others. Rather than looking at the long term business goal of spreading the sport as far as it can, these plans all but close the door on over 90% of ICC members.

India could go it alone. They could have eight-month IPL seasons. They could poach all the best players to play in this super T20 extravaganza. They could stop the gravy train and take all of its cargo for themselves.

This is what the boards are terrified of. They need India far more than India needs them. Or at least that is what they believe. There is a third way, but it is a question of whether or not those in charge are ready to make a stand.

New Zealand Cricket have said it is too early to dismiss these proposals out of hand. The Sri Lankan, South African and Pakistani cricket boards have said they are opposed to the plan.

The Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA) have been so scathing in their rejection of this plan that they have caused Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards to break his silence to say that until these proposals have been discussed at the end of January such criticism is unjustified.

It could be that those boards that are coming out in opposition to these proposals are only doing so as a bargaining tool. Time will tell. All that we can know for sure is that people are discussing cricketing governance, and if that is all that this position paper achieves then that is a good thing.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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