The ICC have released highlights of their strategic plan that takes them through to 2019.
In announcing the future aspirations of the ICC, Chairman Srinivasan had the following to say:
The ICC Board approved a new strategy for the organisation built around a vision of cricket becoming the ‘world’s favourite sport’.
While a noble marketing slogan, the reality is that it is simply modern day doublespeak. In fact, if the ICC were a listed company in Australia, their shares would be put in a trading halt due to misleading and deceptive statements from the board.
Cricket is the world’s second most popular sport behind football. It doesn’t hold this status due to anything the ICC has overtly done. We are simply lucky that the wonderful people of India chose to fall in love with the game.
In fact, the ICC has a modern history that is best described as contractionary.
The strategy focuses on four key areas:
Cricket: Providing a world-class environment, making sure men’s and women’s international cricket is attractive to play and watch.
This is an interesting goal to chase, given the ICC has recently voted in a revenue sharing structure that essentially makes this impossible to achieve.
By creating the ‘Big Three’, and therefore locking in the majority of revenues to Australia, India and England, it is improbable that an environment exists for a ‘world-class environment’ to evolve. Well, three countries should be able to provide it, but what of other Test playing nations like the West Indies.
Their board only turns over $25m per annum. How will that provide a world class environment?
What’s worse, is that women in only three countries have the chance to be paid as a professional. How does that make cricket attractive to play if you are a female in say South Africa or New Zealand.
This goal also highlights that cricket needs to be more attractive to ‘play and watch’.
It would be hard to argue that there is anything terribly wrong with the current product. T20 is bringing new people to the sport, the ODI format is living a renaissance and Test cricket is benefiting from these evolutionary skill-sets.
However, the key element is the ‘to watch’ statement.
In the UK, unless you have Sky Pay TV, you can’t watch the sport. The IPL cannot be viewed in Australia. Almost everywhere, the game of cricket hides behind a paywall.
This can only be fixed if cricket is able to maturely balance broadcast revenue versus the need to have the sport easily accessible. It is currently failing in this regard. In Australia, the parliament had to legislate to ensure that the Ashes is always on Free To Air.
What’s worse, is that when the Essel Group stated their desire to create a competitive product, the BCCI used their muscle and started cancelling tours where TEN Sport (owned by the Essel Group) have the broadcast rights.
In every element of life, competition has improved the product for everyone involved.
Apparently, the ICC feel their monopoly bucks economic history.
They are special.
Integrity: Protecting the integrity of the game
Some decent work has been done in this regard, however, it is all undone by the fact that the ICC Chairman is still in his chair.
How a man labelled as ‘nauseating’ by his own country’s Supreme Court helps protect the integrity of the game is beyond most.
Apart from this, cricket had virtually no fall out from the Allan Sanford affair, courts gambling sponsorship and has created a system of have and have-nots.
When some players have opportunities in the sport that are closed to them due to nature’s lottery of where you are born, the drivers for corruption will never disappear.
For example, the IPL is the world’s richest tournament. Pakistani players are unofficially banned, Sri Lankan players are not welcome in the state of Tamil Nadu where Chennai play and no-one can recite the name of many non Test playing nation players to have ever been given a contract.
Major events: Delivering successful major events and building their value
This one is laughable.
The ICC killed of the proposed World Test Championship not because it would be a poor event, but because it is highly possible that England and / or India may not qualify.
The ICC killed off their best tournament, the Champions Trophy, before bringing back when they had no better replacement.
The ICC believe a shrunken 10 team World Cup in 2019 is a way to make cricket the globe’s favourite sport.
The ICC have no plans to play one of their official tournaments outside of India, England or Australia until 2022 at the earliest.
It would be interesting to understand the ICC’s definition of ‘value’.
The cynic would surmise that it is purely based on financial measures. To be the world’s most favourite game, it needs to measure more important elements such as new player registrations, number of competitive teams, etc
I’m sure it doesn’t.
Game and Market Development: Improving the quality and reach of international cricket
The ICC is a member’s run organisation. It is not run by an independent commission. Therefore, where is the incentive of a domestic board to assist the ICC in growing the game? How does it help them? In the short term, all it does is deflect revenues to countries such as Afghanistan, Ireland, the UAE and The Netherlands.
None of these smaller countries are likely to play Test cricket in my lifetime. Not because they can’t or would be noncompetitive, but because the system will not allow them to.
The juxtaposition is that Test cricket, the version of the game that most aspire to, is also the one that the ICC won’t allow you to play. It is also the one least patronised (unless you are in Melbourne).
Therefore, the issue the ICC has is not with an avenue to grow the game internationally. T20 and ODI’s are the vehicle. Opening these formats up will improve both the quality and reach of the game.
The more people playing, the more money attracted to the sport, the better the structures, the better the coaching, the better the players and ultimately, the better the product.
It is extremely disappointing that the ICC is treating the cricketing world like a bunch of stooges. It would be much better for them to tell the truth. That is, they will do whatever it takes to protect the status quo. There is nothing wrong with that, unless of course, you have just lied to the public and said the exact opposite.
Whether it be the Essel Group or some other party, it is highly likely that we will see a challenger to ICC accredited events in the coming years. Only 10 teams play Test cricket. Another 180 or so don’t care. They will happily play in start up T20 or ODI leagues.
They have no incentive other than blind loyalty to stay within the ICC framework. Why should China or the USA or France remain members of the ICC? Between them, I probably spend more on Netflix per annum than grants they receive from the governing body.
The ICC has shared a mediocre propaganda document with us. It is not a strategic plan.
Republished in part at First Post