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It’s the end of the ICC world that we used to sort-of know

January 30, 2014

Michael Atherton, in The Times, 30 January 2014 with some liberties in altering the title

“A DONE deal,” is how, last Thursday, Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, described the negotiations over the draft proposal for an overhaul of the finances, governance and future shape of world cricket. He was almost right. Yesterday the ICC issued a statement saying that it agreed, in principle if not yet in fine detail, to the proposal as it prepared to hand control to India, England and Australia.

AthertonAs a body, the ICC will not be missed. Incompetent, wasteful, as the draft proposal hammered home time and again, and self-interested, the directors had a chance to make a stand for something better and brighter, but chose instead to accept the scraps and the concessions on offer. In this, of course, there was absolutely no surprise.

That there was disgruntlement, though, is clear enough from the lack of detail in yesterday’s announcement and by the proposal not being put to a vote. Later, after the press release indicating agreement in principle, the boards of South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan seemed to contradict this. Even in apparent unanimity there is discord.

The vote will come later, after more horsetrading, no doubt. Alan Isaac, the president of ICC, had a grumble about the process by which the draft proposal from the working party of the Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee was leaked to the media, but he confirmed that, with one or two small alterations, the principles of the proposal have been accepted in their entirety. The detail will be worked on over the coming weeks before the ICC’s next meeting.

South Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh huffed and puffed to get some concessions, but they are minor, and although no figures were released yesterday, the principle that the money for ICC tournaments is owned by the countries that produce it, was accepted. That was the non-negotiable from the Board of Control for Cricket in India; it was always about the money. That, and control.

What are the concessions? Promotion and relegation from full-member status has been, well, relegated. There will be no change to the status of any full-member country and no immunity either for India, England and Australia, an irrelevance now that promotion and relegation will not be implemented. If worthy enough, there will be no bar to the best of the associates – Ireland, say, and Afghanistan – playing Test cricket, but that will not come for a long time.

The Test cricket fund, set up to assist countries playing what have been called unviable Test series, will be given to every member annually, bar India, England and Australia, so this now includes South Africa, previously excluded. One by one these countries were bought off with a promise here and a promise there. So much for the fiduciary duty, explicitly stated, that the directors should put the interests of the ICC before that of their home board.

The final concession was that membership of ExCo, the key arm of the executive, with powers over virtually every area of policy, will consist of five and not four members, as proposed, and may, in time, be chaired by any director of the board. But three of the five members will be from the boards of England, India and Australia and what they say will go. Each of India, England and Australia will lead the key committees over the next two years, as the television rights for the next eight-year cycle are concluded: India will chair the main committee; Australia will chair ExCo, and England, the Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee.

So much for the concessions. What has been agreed (in principle) was virtually that outlined in these pages on Monday. The World Test Championship is stillborn; the Champions Trophy returns; more money goes to the best associates, even though the associates and affiliates as a whole will lose out in relative terms; the costs of administering the game will be slashed, not surprisingly given that there is essentially no longer need for the ICC. Crucially, the extra money for India, England and Australia, principally, through what are called distribution costs, has been agreed, and binding and bankable bilateral agreements between countries will replace the future tours program. These were the key planks for the BCCI’s continued involvement, so now the BCCI will, the press release said, take “central leadership responsibility”.

Laughably, there were some quotes from Dave Richardson, the chief executive of the ICC, saying that he hoped to be able to help “bring to fruition the principles that have been proposed and accepted”. But the ICC, as a true, independent governing body, will no longer exist once the proposal is voted through. Its authority before stemmed from its supposed independence and ability to organise world events, and from sharing out the proceeds, but these will now be run by a department offshoot of the ECB and BCCI.

Steve Elworthy, the ECB’s tournament director, is likely to figure prominently in organising world events from here on in. So Richardson finds himself as chief executive without a shred of executive power, and chief executive of a body with no function. Welcome to the new world, Dave.

THE TIMES

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