One of the most disturbing aspects of cricket that has emerged through these columns has been the questionable quality of governance that exists in parts of the cricket world.
Ten years ago, a report was published that looked into the governance of the International Cricket Council, the governing body of international cricket. The report included an analysis of governance structures, ethics, membership and funding. It also considered the purpose of the ICC, which, according to its Memorandum of Association of the time, was “to administer, develop, co-ordinate, regulate and promote cricket world-wide in co-operation with its members.”
The review was initiated by then ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorat and was led by former UK Chief Lord Justice Harry Woolf in association with a prominent international consulting firm. As such, the review was deemed to be independent. Despite reservations from the Indian Board of Control for Cricket, the ICC board had approved it.
There were 65 recommendations and a number of damning criticisms of the way the ICC was functioning. One of these suggested that the body “reacts as though it is primarily a members’ club, its interest in enhancing the global development of the game is secondary. In today’s environment, this is not an acceptable situation. Cricket is a global game and there is a need for global governance.”
At that time, the executive board comprised chairs or presidents from each of the 10 full (Test-playing) members, three elected associate member representatives, and the ICC CEO, vice president and president, who chaired. The perception was that this construction allowed those member countries with the most power to look after themselves rather than the wider game.
Woolf’s report recommended a restructuring of the ICC’s board to make it more independent. It suggested ways to reduce the domination of bigger countries and called for a re-examination of the rights and benefits of the Test-playing full member nations. This focused on a different financial model based on the need of members that would enable the ICC to distribute funding in accordance with its overarching role to promote and develop international cricket.
Additionally, it called for measures to increase transparency in dealings by the ICC and its members, setting out clear parameters for ethical conduct.
Narayanaswami Srinivasan, BCCI board president and India’s representative on the ICC board, quickly announced that the BCCI rejected the key recommendations of the report out of hand, without saying why.
Srinivasan also owned an IPL franchise through his company, India Cements. Following the uncovering of match-fixing scandals and conflicts of interest involving the operation of the franchise, the Supreme Court of India was asked to intervene. One of its acts, in March 2014, was to order that Srinivasan should step down as BCCI president. This only served to create space for him to become, in June 2014, the first chair of the ICC board, following constitutional changes precipitated by the Woolf report.
Given Srinivasan’s outright rejection of Woolf’s recommendations, the chances of implementing the most contentious ones were remote. Instead, an attempt to increase the concentration of power within the ICC was mounted, even before the new chair took post. Under a proposal put forward by India, Australia and England, a new executive committee comprising representatives from each country, plus one other full member, would be created, with the “Big Three” holding rotating chairs of key committees. This did meet with opposition from other full members and some concessions were garnered, but the direction of travel was opposite to Woolf’s.
In the ever-twisting relationship between the ICC and BCCI, Srinivasan was removed as chair in November 2015 at the request of the BCCI, which was concerned about ongoing conflicts of interest. He was replaced by Shashank Manohar, then president of the BCCI. He served two two-year terms with the ICC, being instrumental in reformulating Srinivasan’s plans. This occurred in 2017, but not without drama.
In April 2017, the board approved, by 13 votes to 1, a revised financial model for the 2016-2023 cycle. Under this, India would receive $293 million, England $143 million, Zimbabwe $94 million and the other seven full members $132 million each. It would be no surprise to learn that the dissenting vote was India’s since it had been seeking $570 million. Other changes approved by the board opened the way for more Test cricket nations, removed the affiliate level of membership to leave only two categories — full and associate member — and introduced an independent female director, along with amendments that expanded on and clarified the roles and objectives of the ICC to provide leadership in international cricket.
All of this required ratification by the full council in June 2017. Meanwhile, India threatened to boycott the ICC’s Champions Trophy, so it should not be surprising to learn that the revenue distribution had changed by the ratification date. The BCCI was allocated $405 million, England $139 million and the other full members unchanged or slightly reduced amounts. Ireland and Afghanistan were granted Test status and shared $240 million with associate members. India did enter the Champions Trophy.
Strongarm tactics used by the BCCI to get its way have become commonplace in the ICC governance regime. While some of Woolf’s recommendations have been implemented over the years, his key calls for independent board members and a more egalitarian distribution of power and money have not. This is hardly a surprise given the BCCI’s overwhelming dominance on both counts.
It claims to generate 70 percent of cricket’s global revenues. On that basis, it feels entitled to the lion’s share of ICC revenue distribution.
The battle is over the size of that share and who determines it. This ought to be the ICC with its remit to promote and develop cricket at all levels throughout the world. It is hard to resist the feeling that Woolf would be distinctly unimpressed by the shackles and tensions under which the ICC still has to operate, imposed mainly by the BCCI. Who is going to control the future landscape of world cricket, especially if the next ICC chair is Indian?