By Charles Wilkin
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Aug. 14, 2015: Once again the governance of a major international sport is in the news for the wrong reasons.
Football is suffering from allegations of dishonesty within its governing bodies and the arrest of several administrators of the game. Athletics is once again under the shadow of a major doping scandal. Our game of cricket, lovely cricket has hitherto managed to escape the type of negative attention paid in recent times to football and athletics. But no more.
The unsavory news about cricket emanates from the financial source and betting capital of the game, India, where the courts at the highest level have intervened, and from a movie released in London on the 27th July called “Death of a Gentleman.”
Firstly to India. There, the Supreme Court has suspended two of the franchises operating in the popular and lucrative, but suspect Indian Premier League. The two suspended teams include the Chennai Super Kings which is or was until recently controlled by a company owned by N. Srinivasan. Earlier in the year the Supreme Court suspended Srinivasan as President of the BCCI but he is now Chairman of cricket’s governing body, the ICC.
For several years past he has been the most powerful man in world cricket. By its action, the Supreme Court of India has sent a powerful message to Super King Srinivasan and the powers that be in cricket in that country that sport is not the private fiefdom of Srinivasan or its other administrators but a public trust to be administered transparently and honestly.
Two months ago the same message was sent to FIFA and its President Blatter by prosecutions in the USA and investigations in Switzerland of dishonest dealings by some in FIFA’s hierarchy.
Blatter of FIFA has so far maintained his freedom but has been forced to resign by the events surrounding FIFA. Despite being discredited in his home country and suspended as head of the BCCI, Srinivasan will no doubt cling to his international kingdom. Having entrenched himself in power at ICC he is unlikely to be forced out at least not for the time being. That could change depending on what further happens in the court in India.
The movie “Death of a Gentleman” highlights the hijacking of world cricket by India, England and Australia. The point is made that FIFA, despite its troubles, is expanding the game of football worldwide and spreading its wealth but the ICC is contracting the game of cricket for the selfish benefit of India, England and Australia, with the other countries as hangers on. In this new model ICC has refused to adopt the changes recommended for broader governance and greater transparency by Lord Woolf whom it appointed to make the recommendations. Sounds familiar?
ICC is also substantially reducing the money earmarked for expansion of the game and giving more to the three dominant countries. The movie explores the administration of the game and suggests that it is run like a private members club and that its future is threatened by the conflict of interest and bullying of Srinivasan supported by the arrogant Giles Clarke of England.
It makes the point that Australia, the third hijacker, has made the administration of its Board much more open and transparent but has done nothing to make ICC more transparent. The movie asks the question “Does cricket make money in order to exist or does it exist to make money?”
As it is presently being run by ICC it exists to make money. That is a dangerous model in sport because money can corrupt as the FIFA experience has shown. I agree with Michael Holding who said “There are too many people running cricket that are only interested in the bottom line.”
How does all this affect the game in the West Indies? Let me begin by saying that there have been no accusations of dishonesty or illegal betting against the cricket authorities in our region. That said however, there have been widespread accusations of incompetence.
Facing a claim by BCCI for 42 million U.S. dollars, liability for which it has admitted, WICB is by all normal commercial standards facing possible bankruptcy. It has expressed confidence that it can extricate itself from the BCCI claim. Let’s hope that it does.
If not, like BCCI, it too could find itself in the hands of the courts. Even if it does get a break from India, its finances are not strong and its prospects are shaky. With BCCI in transition, the fallout from the court ruling in India could affect the ability or inclination of the weakened BCCI to forgive its claim against WICB.
Let’s hope that BCCI will forgive the claim but that is far from certain.
The Supreme Court of India has not finished its work. It will shortly recommend changes and improvements to make BCCI more transparent and more responsive to the public at large. The same changes are badly needed in this region.
WICB has itself recognized that, but does not like the consequences for its clique of administrators hence has backed away. The verdict of the Supreme Court of India should give fresh impetus to the move for change here.
The CARICOM Governments should take note of the verdict. In their usual manner they have been slow to react and have done little of real impact. They should get serious and revive their efforts to force the badly needed changes. Public agitation to that end should continue.
The hijacking of the game by India, England and Australia so well documented in the movie “Death of a Gentleman”, poses a serious threat to West Indies cricket. Although Dave Cameron played ball with the big three and got himself a place on their committee that is a token position. Contrary to what he may think, he is really a small fry in the international arena.
The West Indies is being isolated despite lip service paid by the big three to our importance to the game. For co-operating with the hijack, WICB were awarded the hosting in this year of the ICC annual meeting. What a grand prize! But India, Australia and England grabbed for themselves all six international tournaments between 2015 and 2023. Of the six India will host three. The clear intention is to centralize cricket around these three countries.
Any other country which wants a small piece of the action better bow down to them. If not, as happened to South Africa, they will be put in their place. Is that how an international sport played in almost 100 countries should be administered?
With the standard of West Indies cricket having declined for 20 years now, we have lost the leverage gained for us by the magnificent exploits of Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Wes Hall, Lance Gibbs, Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Andy Roberts, Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Brian Lara, Sir Curtley Ambrose, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Sir Richie Richardson, Courtney Walsh and so many others of great acclaim who made us proud to be West Indians.
Just for the record and for our younger people West Indies were undefeated in a series in Test cricket from 1980 to 1995 and we won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979.To many that sounds like ancient history. A whole generation has grown up accustomed to failure.
Dave Cameron was re-elected as President of WICB due mainly to his exploitation of the closed nature of the board. In any event it is difficult to see how anyone outside the ruling clique would want to lead it in its current state.
It’s directors are brave people to risk their reputations which could be damaged if WICB is ultimately to fall into bankruptcy. The standard of administration matches that of the team. Cameron has been given another opportunity to clean up the mess which he helped to make. In the meantime, West Indies cricket is about to hit a new low by the failure of the team, for the first time ever, to qualify for the Champions Trophy to be contested in the 50 over version of the game, in England in 2017. Even Bangladesh have now moved ahead of us in qualifying for the tournament.
The CPL has brought renewed interest in the game in the region. That interest can be leveraged for the good of West Indies cricket but much more will be required and quickly. West Indies cricket will not survive on 20/20 alone.
The lovers of the game in this region should pay careful attention to the recent developments in India and should try to watch “The Death of a Gentleman” to see what is going on behind the scenes in the administration of the game.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Charles Wilkin, QC, is former chairman of the West Indies Cricket Board’s Governance Committee.