Thursday, 26 June 2014

The ICC funding deal

I was going to write a nice little review of the second Test match between England and Sri-Lanka today, talking about whether Moeen Ali's hundred complicated the question of the spinner's job, the agony of a second to last ball defeat, and so on.

But actually, there's a much bigger issue in cricket today, one that has implications, not just for the sport as a whole, but also when it comes to the way we see sporting bodies in general. Today, the International Cricket Council has ratified an agreement it has been working towards, which changes the way funds generated from cricket are distributed. They also accepted a new head of the ICC in N. Srinivasan.

These sound like small things, don't they? Except for two points. First, the new agreement gives 62% of all funds generated to the national boards of England, Australia and India. The seven other test playing nations get 5% each. It is astonishing to think that they agreed to this, but essentially at this point, India has so much power that the threat of them refusing to tour a country with their many millions of supporters is enough. And if it isn't, as it wasn't for the West Indies, the ICC can always advance a loan to develop cricket there. $4 million in this case.

Secondly, N. Srinivasan is currently under investigation thanks to allegations of corruption. Now, I have no knowledge of the details of these allegations, and so I can't comment on them. But I do think that it sends out entirely the wrong message about the ICC and how it feels about such matters that they would appoint him anyway.

It's a combination that points to, at the very least, the ICC being a money-grubbing organisation more interested in its bottom line than in the well being of the game. Suggest to it tomorrow that you could have everyone in the world playing cricket, but the price of that is that they would all be doing it on a purely amateur basis with no TV revenue, and it seems fairly obvious what their response would be.

By saying yes to this frankly wrong deal, the ICC has institutionalised a culture of haves and have nots in a game I enjoy. It has made it essentially impossible for the sport to gain new nations at the highest levels, and thus destroyed all the efforts that have been made in the last few decades to spread the game. It has surrendered control of the game to a clique of chief executives who need the game to run as a big business, when that has nothing to do with the spirit that cricket is supposed to foster.

Which probably sounds like it isn't relevant to anyone else, but I actually want to make a broader point about the way large sporting organisations are run. These days, the larger ones are effectively multi-national corporations, out for their own profit. That is true of the supposedly non-profit FIFA, which has no profits but massive reserves. It seems to be true for motor racing and athletics. In all of these spheres, we have had allegations of corruption. At the very least, their processes and decisions seem to have nothing to do with the ordinary people in the sport.

There must be something that can be done about organisations with such reprehensible practices. At the very least, I would expect greater accountability to governments. The mantra that sport has nothing to do with politics has merely served to produce organisations behaving in ways that we would not allow if they were not involved in sport. England, in particular, should have learned better than to just go chasing after the money by now. Unfortunately though, the lesson in cricket of things like the Packer revolution and the IPL is that the people who throw the most money at the sport tend to come out on top in the end.

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