Cricket: ICC’s position paper deferred, but fans still protest

By Antoinette Muller 29 January 2014

The ICC’s dubious position paper has been deferred after the first day of the quarterly ICC board meeting. According to the powers that be there was “unanimous support” for some principles, but not so unanimous that it could be signed off. For the time being, it remains in limbo, but that has not stopped fans from around the world taking to the streets in protest. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

As things stand, the ICC position paper remains in limbo following day one of the ICC’s quarterly board meeting in Dubai. Or at least, as much in limbo as it possibly can be. The ICC said that after the first day of meetings concluded the ICC Board “unanimously supported” some principles, but nothing has been signed and it has been deferred until next month. You would think that “unanimous support” meant that a decision would be reachable, but as has been the case with the whole saga, contradictions floweth over and hypocrisy is strong with all involved.

It has also become apparent that communication is not something the ICC does very well. President Alan Isaac revealed that he had actually asked the big three to come together and discuss a plan for cricket’s future, insisting that it’s not all as cloak-and-dagger as it appears. Whether Isaac was simply trying to paper over some ugly cracks to try to save face, only he will know.

“Several months ago I encouraged the BCCI, CA and ECB to enter into a constructive dialogue together to help resolve some of the key commercial and governance issues facing the game. These leading cricket nations have worked tirelessly to produce a document which provided the basis for the past few weeks of extremely constructive discussions,” said Isaac.

Isaac expressed his disappointment at a secretive paper being leaked, the same paper which most members were only made aware of in the middle of January. He added that the principles in the paper, which including handing over the lion’s share of revenue and power to the BCCI, CA and ECB, drew “unwarranted criticism”.

“It is obviously very disappointing that a draft position paper from these Members was leaked as this prompted a debate that ignored the ongoing negotiations between all Members and led to unwarranted criticism of many of those involved in the process.”

According to the ICC a number of principles were agreed upon on Tuesday and Isaac said that these “provide clear evidence that through the course of further discussions over the coming weeks we can be increasingly confident in achieving consensus.”

The principles which have been agreed upon include all Members playing cricket on merit, with no immunity to any country, which indicates that the idea of promotion-relegation will be scrapped. The Test fund now includes Cricket South Africa and a larger percentage from the increasing Associate Members’ surplus will be distributed to the higher performing non-Full Members.

While those all make sense, the rest of the “agreed-upon principles” become somewhat muddled. After the proposal of having the Future Tours Programme (FTP) scrapped was met with much finger wagging, the new proposal suggests: mutually agreed bi-lateral FTP agreements which will be legally binding. There is no clarification on what a “mutually agreed bi-lateral” FTP agreement might refer to and whether that means that teams must adhere to the number of Tests plonked down on the calendar.

Furthermore, the statement mentions “recognition of the need for strong leadership of the ICC, involving leading Members, which will involve BCCI taking a central leadership responsibility.” What exactly that means is not clear, but from the rest of the statement, it suggests that the BCCI will only now officially do what they have been doing for years anyway.

The idea of a newly formed Executive Committee (ExCo) and Financial & Commercial Affairs Committee (F&CA) has not been scrapped. It is still there and it will still involve the ECB, CA and the BCCI, but it has been proposed that two additional members are added. It does not state whether those members will be democratically elected or simply elected by the big three. Furthermore, the proposal says that due to a “transitional phase” in new governance structure and media rights cycle, the leadership role will be provided for two years from June 2014 and consist of a BCCI representative to Chair the ICC Board, a CA representative to Chair the ExCo and an ECB representative to Chair the F&CA.

That still doesn’t sound like anything vaguely representing the meritocracy principles constantly preached. For the time being, Isaac has been made to look slightly foolish by the big three and the paper remains in limbo with a select few nations opposed to it. It is hard to believe that all members would buckle to the power grabbing demands of the big three, even with some of the initial proposals tweaked and changed.

The proposal does not encourage growth of the sport globally, it builds a dollar-lined funnel for the rich to get rich and the poor to get poorer. All of this happens while players suffer at the hands of ill-informed amateurs who either never loved or have forgotten that they love the sport of cricket in the first place.

It’s a good thing, then, that across the world, those who are part of the lifeblood of the sport, the fans, have started to speak out and make their voices heard. It’s not just happened on social media platforms either; cricket fans have taken to the streets in some parts of the world to voice their discontent. In Bangladesh, a 3,000-strong crowd took to the streets to protest the possibility of being relegated from the top tier of cricket, complete with “go home, you’re drunk” posters.

In Pakistan, too, fans protested holding up a poster saying: “Cricket is our soul, don’t sell our soul” in the hopes that the PCB would stand firm in their opposition of the paper.

That’s a good start, because between all the bullying, bartering, snaking and general malpractice, everyone has forgotten about two of the key aspects of the game: the fans and the players themselves. The players have a voice in FICA, the fans only have their own voice and it’s worth their while to force those in charge to be accountable for their actions before it’s too late.

If sanity fails to prevail, there is just one question left to ask of them: “Now what? Do you own the world? How do you own disorder?”

A power grab of this brutish and selfish nature could, after all, only lead to even more cricketing disorder – and that would be a very grim day for fans and players alike. DM

Photo: A man plays cricket in the fog in a park in Lahore January 1, 2012. Cold and dry weather is expected in most parts of the country for the next couple of days, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said on its website on Sunday. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza.


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