Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Don't blame WICB

Published:Tuesday | October 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Don't blame WICB

The default position is to blame the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). So, the recent walkout by the West Indies players from their tour of India is assumed to be the fault of the Board.

Even knowledgeable former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson is on that bandwagon. The strike, Mr Patterson argues, is evidence of "a total collapse of the governance system" of West Indies cricket, which could have been avoided had the Board implemented reforms proposed more than a half a decade ago by a committee he chaired.

Maybe!

Except that this argument ignores the obvious. Whatever its past sins, and though it faces the consequences, this is not the problem of the Board. It is infighting by a trade union, whose fat, elite members want to maintain a closed shop, or, at best, make only crumbs available to the rest.

The fact is that the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA), the players' union, negotiated a new wage contract with the WICB that increased retainers for the elite players between 15 per cent and 25 per cent. Match fees would go up 15 per cent.

However, an additional US$2.5 million in sponsors' money, which would normally be doled out to 13-15 elite players selected for senior teams, is to pay contracts for 90 more players for the professional territorial franchise teams under the WICB's new tournament format. Indeed, the Patterson committee had "endorsed the proposal of a professional league", saying that it would allow for mobility of regional players and help to lift the standard of the game in the region.

But such a league has to be paid for. WIPA, recognising, for the first time, its obligation to a wider constituency than an elite few, agreed that the senior players would make a contribution to help provide a living wage for the second-tier ones. It seems that the authority that the WIPA president, Wavell Hinds, believed that he had been given to negotiate such a deal was not the case. Or, faced with the reality of this commitment, senior players with buyers' remorse and a dose of greed withdrew their commitment. This is a moral issue for the players involved. If questions of governance arrive, it is with how WIPA manages its affairs, which was not the mandate of the Patterson Committee.

moral high ground

When properly prescribed trade unions negotiate with firms, it is expected that they have a mandate from their members to do so and that whatever agreement that emerges, unless proved egregiously corrupt, is enforceable in law. In this case, the WICB, on the face of it, is on both the legal and moral high ground.

On the broad issue of the governance of West Indies cricket, this newspaper believes that there are many things about the operation of the WICB that need to change. We are not, however, convinced that the structure suggested by the Patterson Committee is the best model for a modern organisation in an entrepreneurial environment.

The overarching 23-member stakeholders' council, proposed by Mr Patterson, with representatives from government and myriad other groups, has the scent, whatever the intent, of a QUANGO. We understand mission creep. We would likely soon be faced with a public sector-type bureaucracy and all that this entails.