Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not often silent for three minutes.
But I’ll do anything in a good cause – and that’s what I’m doing this morning with fellow sports governance campaigner, British MP Damian Collins, the head of the Barmy Army Paul Burnham and two young journos/producers, Sam Collins (no relation to Damian) and another Aussie Jarrod Kimber, who recently launched a fantastic documentary film called Death of a Gentleman.
We are having a three-minute silent protest outside the Hobbs Gate at The Oval in London, prior to the Fifth Ashes Test, in solidarity with the cricketing nations that have been silenced because of how the game is managed from the very top.
The more you learn about sport, the more you realise just how poor its governance is – whether it be cycling, athletics or, of course, football. While the specific issues related to each sport are different, they all boil down to an absolute failure of management and governance and a lack of transparency, accountability and probity in the conduct of their business.
In the case of world cricket, it’s being held hostage by three countries. I’m ashamed to say one of them is Australia, along with India and England. At the highest level of the sport, at the International Cricket Council (ICC), cricket has been taken over by its chairman from India, Mr N Srinivasan, as well as Giles Clarke from England and Wally Edwards from Australia.
Srinivasan is someone who the Indian High Court said is not fit to be running the Indian cricket board (the BCCI) because of a conflict of interest arising from family ownership of a Twenty20 team. Did that matter? Not to him. Instead, he moved his focus from solely Indian cricket to the ICC.
An independent report from Lord Woolf and PwC in 2012 also noted that the ICC was full of conflicts of interest. But what did the ICC do with that report? I’ll give you a split second to reflect because, if you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know what comes next when people dare to challenge the comfortable status quote of sporting organisations – they denigrate the person who does so. They also place the report on a bookshelf for a few years to gather dust and, eventually, into the rubbish bin.
In a nutshell, there are 105 countries that play cricket of whom 10 play the revered long form of the game, Test cricket. However, Australia, England and India between them control 52% of all of the game’s international revenues. The remaining 102 (the 97%) – including the other seven who play Test cricket – have to scramble around trying to do something with the 48% that’s left.
If you’re a cricket fan, you’ll know that Australia, England and India are huge in the game. As both Death of a Gentleman and 4 Corners show, Srinivasan, Clarke and Edwards did a cosy backroom deal that benefits their countries and no-one else. Ultimately, their actions will result in the death of Test cricket, except for more lucrative series such as the Ashes.
The ICC’s decision-making is all about self-interest for a few individual members.
Countries who have produced, and do produce, outstanding cricketers such as New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies cannot develop at the same pace as Australia, England and India as they have nowhere near the same money coming in from the game. Other ‘Associate’ or ‘Affiliate’ members of the ICC (and there are 95 of them), such as Afghanistan, Argentina, Cameroon, Malta, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda and Zambia, have no hope of ever aspiring to be anything other than what they are – ‘associate’ or ‘affiliate’ – because they don’t receive sufficient funding for development and growth.
Even FIFA, with all of the issues it faces in terms of corruption allegations and governance challenges, has respected the need to grow the game and to give each of its member associations an equal and guaranteed level of funding.
But wait, there’s more. The ICC has reduced its marquee event, the Cricket World Cup, from fourteen to ten teams and has also refused the invitation to take part in the Olympic Games.
This would laughable if it wasn’t such a scandal. Other sports look at ways to expand their marquee event, and would give their eye-teeth to part of the Olympic movement – but not cricket.
Having done my three minutes of silence at The Oval, I’m asking you now to help us #ChangeCricket.
You can do so by signing the petition at www.changecricket.com and also by contacting the Prime Minister and Sport Minister in each of Australia, England and India asking them to intervene. Their email and twitter details are on the site. (And yes, we will change the pic of Michael Clarke once the Fifth Test is over).
Find out more about #ChangeCricket at www.changecricket.com. Thanks for your support.
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P.S. While you’re in an activist mood, the battle for independent reform at FIFA, led by an eminent person, continues via #NewFIFANow. Sign-on there also!