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Jan 23, 2014

Decision to run cricket according to commercial interests will cause inequity

The first thing that strikes you about the “position paper” on the future of the ICC (was the leak an act of dissidence?) is how smartly it has been drafted. I got the impression that the people that produced it were aware of where they would be attacked and have put in debating points at the right places.
But debating points are one thing, the basic philosophy is another. The real issue before the ICC, or the new entity that seeks to be the ICC, is how to balance commerce and development. If you start with development as your primary agenda, you should be willing to compromise on profits. Sri Lanka vs New Zealand, both teams in the top eight, is not a profitable enterprise but still it must be played. If however you start with profit and power as the end-objective, then you make concessions to development. My impression, after one reading of a very skilfully produced document, is that development emerges as, at best, a necessary by-product of commercial success.
Profit by itself is not wrong though. Sport is played, and followed, on emotion but it must be run as an enterprise to have a sustainable future. Interestingly, even charitable institutions are learning that you cannot just be a group of well-meaning people bumbling along. But in sport, as in charity, funds have to be generated for common good. And it is in the distribution of funds that this document seeks to create a group of haves.
I can see them arguing that handouts are bad and that the ICC has given enough of it. Certainly some of the “Test playing” nations have little to show by way of development for all the money gifted them by the ICC. Some countries created bloated administrative structures that paid salaries as, well, handouts. And they will argue too that with greater revenue, and by cutting wasteful costs, everyone will actually get more.
But we are likely to get into a situation where the three rich countries of the ICC run the commercial interests of the others, and obviously their own, and in doing so are likely to create an inequity within nations. Even beyond the ICC revenue distribution, not all of these countries will get to play against the big three often enough to generate television revenue. If New Zealand, for example, have to play Sri Lanka, West Indies and Pakistan most of the time, they will struggle to raise enough money to plough back into development. All they are guaranteed in this document is 3 Tests and 5 one day internationals over an 8 year cycle against Australia and England. The document does not say how often India will grant other teams an opportunity. But it does say that if the host nation has a tv deal with an entity that is in dispute with the visiting nation, they needn’t visit! These are the small financial controls that could weaken finances of teams outside the big three.

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