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WICB: winners at the art of losing

Published:Friday | January 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Orville Higgins

by Orville Higgins

It's now 10-0! Or so WIPA is saying. Ten different arbitrations, about different issues, in front of different arbitrators, in different places. The result hasn't changed. WIPA has beaten the WICB every time. Thrown into this mix is that the WICB also lost a high-profile case with its own sponsor, Digicel, regarding branding rights during this time.

If the WICB had the capacity to feel ashamed, it would be embarassed by now, but you wonder if it has become so accustomed to losing, both on and off the field, that it's now become immune!

Who is it that advises the WICB on legal matters? These arbitrations are costly exercises, and it can't be good business sense for a board already claiming that money is short to be taking on the expense of arbitrations that it keeps losing.

The latest dispute concerns Article 6 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which is a signed document between both parties. It speaks to the fact that the board and WIPA must consult about major cricketing matters in the region. That is standard practice between cricket boards and players' associations all over the world.

No consultation

In 2009, the West Indies first-class season consisted of 14 games, or matches played on a home-and-away basis. In 2010, the season was cut to one round of seven games. According to WIPA, there was no consultation. This was arbitrarily done.

WIPA filed a notice of dispute and the case went to arbitration. Senior counsel Jairam Seenath, the arbitrator in the case, when filing his judgment agreed with WIPA that the WICB was again making procedural mistakes. He said that the provisions of the MOU should "not be trifled with since a breach of them may cause serious [and sometimes irreparable] damage."

At the heart of the WICB's problem over the years is the fact that it has paid scant regard to this binding agreement between both parties. Dr Ernest Hilaire, WICB CEO, was interviewed on KLAS Radio sometime ago by yours truly and Michael Hall, and he virtually admitted this! I couldn't quite believe it.

The interview date was October 13, 2010. Dr Hilaire's statement at the time showed exactly what is the crux of the matter between both sides. When pressed about the WICB's attitude to the MOU, this is a direct quote from Dr Hilaire: "I am saying to you that the document is unworkable in the present environment, and, therefore, if WIPA has reason to say certain clauses have not been observed, I think they probably have a case in saying so ... ."

He said it with a level of nonchalance that was unworthy of a man in such a position. Dr Hilaire may well feel that the MOU is too heavily skewed in favour of the players, but to say so publicly was unbecoming and unwise.

Legal genius? I don't think so

One school of thought, from those who are sympathetic to the WICB, is that WIPA merely drags its feet on certain issues, waits for an opportune moment to file a notice of dispute, and then hopes that arbitrations go its way.

But that's nonsensical. In a lot of these issues, the MOU doesn't insist that WIPA must approve, just that it must be consulted. When the WICB goes ahead and unilaterally makes decisions without consulting with a body it is legally obligated to liaise with, it's asking for trouble.

A 'scoreline' of 10-0, therefore, is no surprise.

Dinanath Ramnarine, the head of WIPA, is being made to look like a legal genius when, for the most part, all he does is stick to the tenets of an agreement.

What the WICB should try to do is get the MOU changed to something its members believe is fairer to the board, but even that is creating a problem. In fact, the present MOU was signed a long time ago, and only remains binding because both sides can't work out an arrangement that is mutually satisfactory.

In a football match, 10-0 would cause a coach to look over his shoulder. With the WICB, however, it's business as usual. Look out, it could be 11-0 soon!

Orville Higgins, a sportscaster, is the 2010-11 winner of the Hugh Crosskill/Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Reporting. Email feedback to