Money does indeed seem to talk, with the ICC’s proposal to cede decision making to the Big Three

2014-01-31 00:00

THE popular sports film Jerry McGuire had it right with the chant of “show me the money” — money has reared its ugly head in world sport once again, this time rattling the foundations of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Still smarting from the shortened India tour at the end of last year, South Africa and its cricket fans were given a New Year smack across the face when the ICC announced its proposal to cede most of its executive decision-making to the three “big guns” of world cricket — the ECB (England Cricket Board), Cricket Australia and the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India).

In the eyes of the organisation, which many feel is just a figurehead more than a voice in world cricket, these three are the boards that generate the most revenue in the game — India is believed to generate 80% of world cricket’s wealth.

The proposal was drafted by a “working group” of the ICC’s financial and commercial affairs committee in which massive changes were put forward relating to the revenue distribution model, administrative structures and the Future Tours Programme (FTP).

It also questioned the relevance of Test rankings and suggested the reinstatement of the Champions Trophy above the Test Championship.

Despite being the ICC number-one ranked Test playing country, South Africa would find itself as just another cricket playing country in the scheme of things, being controlled by other boards on and off the field.

Comments from cricketing circles had been ones of strong reaction, slamming the idea that many say will ruin world cricket and change the game as everyone knows it.

One of the proposals is a two-tier Test cricket system that will see the top Test nations playing in one division and the bottom, weaker sides, contesting the second tier. A selective promotion/relegation system would be applied, but the catch is exempting England, India and Australia from relegation.

How absurd. Why bother having such a draft in the first place if three of the top nations cannot be moved. As it has been said, it is the classic case of all teams being equal, but some are just a little more equal than others.

Again, it’s a money thing as Test series involving these three countries would bring in far too much money to warrant relegation.

That would mean that the Proteas, heaven forbid, could be relegated if we start stumbling in the Test arena and go through the rebuilding phase after our current all-conquering escapades.

The whole relegation issue opens a huge can of worms. Obviously, cricket followers around the world want to see teams of equal strength match up on the field. But if certain teams are given unreal privileges, it’s unfair on the others and by rights, no team should be exempt from relegation. It’s a system based on financial strength and teams like the West Indies and New Zealand, who on their day can compete and have beaten the stronger Test nations in the past, would be in the bottom tier, playing against the weaker nations, thereby generating little financial gain from any series.

Looking beyond the boardroom, it’s worth asking the question as to whether such a scenario would have bigger implications as far as the cricketing future of such countries would be concerned.

Why would a young, budding cricketer want to further his career playing against second-tier opposition, never having the chance to gauge his prowess in the Holy Grail environment of the game?

Cricket South Africa was the first national board to respond to the proposals, saying they were unconstitutional and that if such proposals were adopted, we would be big losers.

Besides opposing the proposals, CSA is already on a sticky wicket with the BCCI, who voiced their dissatisfaction when Haroon Lorgat, a former ICC chief executive, was given the same position within CSA.

While in office at the ICC, Lorgat supported the Woolf report that proposed placing the ICC in the hands of independent directors. The resulting feud saw Lorgat ousted and India snubbing him and South African cricket by interfering with and shortening the highly anticipated tour by India last year.

Former cricket chiefs have submitted letters to the ICC attacking the big three plan, which boils down to the BCCI getting more money at the expense of other countries. Pakistan officials, plus Malcolm Speed and Malcolm Gray, former senior administrators in Cricket Australia and the ICC, have also recommended the proposal be withdrawn. Former West Indian captain Clive Lloyd, our own Ali Bacher and former England captain Michael Atherton have also come on board, saying the ICC needs to re-examine the Woolf report.

The ICC board had a two-day meeting in Dubai to discuss the issues and it appears that the Big Three are one vote away — they need eight out of 10 for a three-fourths majority — from pushing through the constitutional amendments to allow the revamp to be completed. Bangladesh were uncertain at one stage but, having been reassured that their Test status will remain, have backed the proposal.

Joining South Africa in their protests are Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and winning a vote from one of these countries will seal the deal.

Like politics, talk from the meeting has been misleading at times. While the ICC is happy to say it has unanimous support for the revamp, Sri Lankan sources have said there was no unanimity at all.

The main players in this, the ICC, through current chief executive Dave Richardson, ironically a former South African Test player, have said they look forward to bringing to fruition some of the principles that have been proposed.

Atherton has called Richardson “a chief executive without a shred of executive power” and all hangs on another ICC meeting later in February.

However, it seems that money does indeed talk and to keep the BCCI quiet, the Big Three will work together for the time being. Whether it’s to the benefit of world cricket, that remains to be seen.

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