x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

ICC members agree to disagree on position paper in Dubai

Vote postponed on resolution for proposals from India, England and Australia cricket boards to revamp governing body structure, but ICC says there is support for principles. Osman Samiuddin reports from Dubai.

The ICC is likely to see radical changes to the way it governs cricket. Karl Jeffs / Getty Images for ICC
The ICC is likely to see radical changes to the way it governs cricket. Karl Jeffs / Getty Images for ICC

The battle between cricket’s haves and some of its have-nots ended in a tense – and probably brief – stalemate on Tuesday after the first day of a board meeting in Dubai as important as any the International Cricket Council (ICC) has had in years.

Cricket Australia (CA), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were keen on implementing a number of resolutions that would drastically restructure the governance and finance distribution models of the ICC, concentrating control and power in their hands; the boards of Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were in the opposition.

Ultimately both sides claimed little victories. The four smaller boards managed to defer voting and signing on the resolutions, moving one of the board officials to say it was “a big thing that we managed to get the resolution to not go through”.

But an ICC news release after the meeting said there had been “unanimous support for a set of principles relating to the future structure, governance and financial models of the ICC”.

Those principles are suitably broad and include support for “participation [in all formats of cricket] based on meritocracy.” They also call for the creation of a “Test Cricket Fund paid equally on an annual basis to all Full Members [except the BCCI, CA and ECB] ... introduced to encourage and support Test match cricket”.

A restructuring of the Future Tours Programme (FTP) is also part of these principles: “Mutually agreed bi-lateral FTP Agreements which will be legally binding and bankable and will run for the same period as the ICC commercial rights cycle [2015-2023].”

There is also recognition “of the need for strong leadership of the ICC, involving leading Members, which will involve BCCI taking a central leadership responsibility”, and “a need to recognise the varying contribution of Full Members to the value of ICC events through the payment of ‘contribution costs’”.

The principles are derived from a set of five main resolutions that were presented to members at the meeting. One version of these resolutions, seen by The National, advocates comprehensive change on the FTP, the ICC’s corporate structure, constitutional amendments, governance and constitutional changes and introducing a meritocracy (which may or may not ultimately include two-tier Test cricket).

The details of these resolutions are not that much different to what was found in the initial position paper, though there has been some watering down, such as the expansion of an Executive Committee to include one more member from outside CA, ECB and the BCCI.

It is understood that a slightly modified version of the resolutions was presented to the board on Tuesday morning but not given to them, for fear that they may be leaked.

The stalemate is not likely to last. What the ICC news release effectively acknowledges is that the process for India, Australia and England to lead world cricket, have a bigger say in its running and a bigger slice of its financial pie has begun.

That now appears inevitable, though there seems to be acknowledgement that it should take time. “There is more work to be done by the Members in developing their schedules of bilateral cricket while at the ICC we need to work through the detail of the manner in which these principles will be implemented,” the ICC president Alan Isaac said.

How much time is unclear as England, Australia and India are keen to call another board meeting as soon as is possible; the date is likely to be decided on Wednesday and one floating around is as soon as February 8.

“Extensive work will now be undertaken in advance of a follow-up Board meeting next month,” Isaac said. “The principles agreed today provide clear evidence that through the course of further discussions over the coming weeks we can be increasingly confident in achieving consensus.”

In the meantime, the rest of the full members will go back with these principles and tell them that it is around these that cricket is expected to be restructured.

“The boards will discuss these changes and give their views,” one official from the four dissenting boards said. “It might be that some boards say we do not agree to this so that in the next meeting, if it comes to a vote, they may give a dissenting vote.”

It is in this period that the ICC’s claim that support for these proposals was “unanimous” will be tested. “It is not the case that support has happened,” one board head told The National. “These are guidelines and principles and we have told them, we will take them to our boards and will tell you what our decisions are based on what our boards say.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) issued a statement reiterating that “no decision with regard to any proposed changes ... have been made in Wednesday’s ICC Board meeting.

“The PCB clearly stated at the meeting that the guiding principles were subject to PCB’s Governing Board’s [BOG] approval. These matters will be placed before the BOG and thereafter PCB will take its position at the next ICC Board meeting.”

Another board said the ICC statement was “misleading”.

CSA released a statement late Tuesday night saying it wished to ‘clarify’ the ICC statement, adding, ‘The support is subject to the approval of the respective Boards of the member countries after which a final decision will be taken at a follow-up ICC Board meeting on February 8.’

‘Our position will be subject to full consideration by our board and other stakeholders,’ CSA president and chairman Chris Nenzani said in the statement.

The meeting itself, confirmed a couple of officials, was a heated one, in which deep divisions and a clear sense of polarisation emerged. “Everyone pretty much was involved and some pretty robust arguments were made,” said one.

Given the atmosphere that pervaded the three preceding days, in which the big three relentlessly lobbied other full members to bring them onside, it was only to be expected.

Even until Tuesday morning attempts were being made to break down resistance from the four dissenters; late on Tuesday night it had emerged that the CSA, PCB and SLC had officially asked the ICC to defer a vote and that Bangladesh were also behind asking for a delay.

The four ultimately got their way, but it may yet prove to only be the shallowest win.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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