Patrick Rousseau: WICB: to hell in a hand-basket
There has been a deafening silence around the resolution of the problem with the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) over the tour cancelled by the president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) earlier this year. There was a very glib comment that it would be settled, but no word since. I think this is a very rocky road and this problem will not be solved easily and without the payment of money by the WICB. I hope I am wrong.
The problem has affected the WICB tour schedule and I am sure contributed to the cancellation of a triangular one-day international (ODI) tournament with Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The tour would have given us a chance to qualify for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy tournament due to take place in 2017 in England. Pakistan withdrew, and there was no ICC pressure to insist on the tour, so it was cancelled.
We lost the opportunity to qualify by winning the series and gaining enough points to be in the top eight ODI teams at the qualifying date of September 30, 2015. We will now not participate in 2017. This is happening while the president is playing politics with town hall meetings, but offering no explanation for this major setback. This will be the first time that the West Indies will fail to participate in an important ICC tournament.
But maybe the lack of interest can be explained by the giveaway of the rights we once enjoyed at the ICC because of a vote by President Cameron and his fellow full members of the ICC. This decision has never been properly explained and most of us are not aware of the huge damage done, not only to the WICB and the West Indian people, but to the game of cricket.
When I was the board representative at the ICC, I had the pleasure to be present when the first non-English, non-Australian president, Sir Clyde Walcott, was chosen.
An appointment of a person other than an Australian or Englishman was blocked by England and Australia using the veto they've had since 1909, when the ICC was formed. I was also present and actively participated when Jagmohan Dalmiya of India was elected ICC president in 1997.
Many WICB presidents led the fight to get this major change. I was told by many ICC members of the great respect they had for Allan Rae because he always fought issues like these and other matters which affected the associate and affiliate members, who, technically, had no effective vote. We now have a situation where the full members who are not automatically members of the executive board are in the same position as the associate members because of a change in the constitution of the ICC, consented to and agreed by the WICB, represented by President Cameron. The changes are dramatic.
When I was a member of the ICC, I represented the WICB. There were 12 voting members of the executive board. Australia, England and India (I will call them 'The Trio') were able to get the full members to cast their vote in favour of an amendment to the constitution, which virtually gives them absolute control of the ICC. Since only the executive board can make recommendations on important matters to the ICC board for approval, they have voted in the following changes:
1. They have reduced the executive board from 12 to five and have provided that The Trio are the only permanent members of the executive board. The other two members are elected while the Trio are nominated. The three members have complete control of all matters to be recommended to the full board of the ICC. Under the constitution, the full board can only consider those specific recommendations of the executive board.
2. The Trio have a majority of the vote and will also nominate the chairman of the executive board and of the committees.
3. They have also reduced the number of members of the Finance & Commercial Affairs Committee to the same five members, and The Trio are the three permanent members of this committee. Only this committee or the executive board can make recommendations to the full ICC board on financial and commercial matters, such as the distribution of surplus funds and who should get ICC tournaments.
We, therefore, have a situation where The Trio, with their voting power, control the source of recommendations to the full board, and the board has no power to change the recommendations. This position is a continuation of the old regime prior to 1993 when two countries, Australia and England, controlled things. This time, they have given absolute power to The Trio.
But the real shocker in this disgusting surrender is the impact on the finances of the WICB, one of the poorest of the full members at the ICC. I will set out in detail the large sums we have lost, with no legal right to regain them because of the stupidity of the vote by the WICB. It could mean the beginning of the pattern of corruption that we have seen with other international organisations.
The Trio have already changed the distribution of the ICC surplus funds to the benefit of The Trio, and substantially reduced the amounts that went to the other full members.
Cricket began to see real revenues when a team from the ICC negotiated the television and commercial rights for the World Cups in South Africa and the West Indies. It was an honour to be a part of that ICC committee, and we came close to getting US$700 million for the rights.
I have a theory that international sporting associations grow corrupt as they get wealthier, and hope this is not the case with my beloved game. There exists an estimate of the amount of net revenues that will be available for distribution among the ICC members over the period 2015 to 2023. These distributions usually take place after each ICC World Cup. The amount projected is US$1.640 billion.
So by a vote of the seven members, including the West Indies, the full-member representatives, including President Cameron, have given away substantial earnings that we cannot replace.
But worse was done by the vote; they have surrendered to The Trio the right to host the ICC World Cup and the ICC Twenty20 tournaments, which are big money makers for the host nation as well as the ICC.
The WICB, with its overbuilt infrastructure, will have no chance of hosting one of these tournaments in the future and are deprived of this benefit unless The Trio agrees to help us. Unlikely.
The ridiculous vote also puts a stop to the Future Tours Programme, which was the main plank of an ICC development initiative that required all full members to play each other within a limited period. The Trio has already committed the next three or four years to playing each other often, and it will be interesting to see how many tours are offered to the remaining seven full members. The best earnings for the seven teams is when they play one of The Trio.
However, President Cameron is not the only guilty party, as I am told that the WICB members voted in favour of the decision to surrender all our rights at the ICC. What did we get in return for voting in support of the change to the ICC constitution? Were questions asked by the members, or did they just accept what was put before them?
But the final blow is that the foregoing arrangements can only be reversed if one of The Trio breaks ranks and leaves the cartel and votes with the other two full members to change these destructive and disgusting provisions. No sport can develop and grow if the majority of the profit made goes to three associations, while the other full members struggle to survive with no access to earning additional funds to develop their players and the game. If The Trio is aware of this position and continues as they are, the game of cricket will be destroyed.
When the deal was done, President Cameron promised that the WICB would be better off. This explanation has never been given. All of us will be intrigued to hear how we plan to recover the funds we have given away in the new arrangement.
- Patrick Rousseau is an attorney-at-law and former president of the WICB.