Lord Woolf’s Damning Review of ICC Governance

Peter Lalor, in the Australian, 3 February 2012

AN independent review has slammed sections of the International Cricket Council, taking aim at full members such as Australia for their role in the mismanagement of world cricket. While the report has avoided identifying individuals or countries, it has strongly condemned the abuse of financial power at board level – a charge often levelled at the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

There is further condemnation of members who have conflicts of interest, which seems squarely aimed at Indian president N Srinivasan, and condemnation of countries who do side deals to protect their own interests – an accusation easily levelled against Australia for some of its recent voting patterns. The report said it even considered holding secret ballots to encourage members to break the power of the financially strong boards who might bully others, but shied away from it in the interests of transparency.

Following the debacle of John Howard’s rejection as ICC president, there is a call for the presidential role be split from the chairman’s job and become ambassadorial, but remain under the nomination system. The review recommends an independent chairman be chosen on merit and paid to oversee the ICC.

The governance review by Lord Woolf, of Barnes and PriceWaterhouse Coopers, recommends a wide range of changes to the structure of the board and the administration of cricket and, like the Carter Crawford report into the Australian game, says the game needs to be administered by independent directors.

However, there is already talk in cricket circles claiming the authors have gone too far and whispers that India will snuff out any hope of the reforms being adopted.

The report claims that members of the ICC have been “half-hearted” in their support of the international game and is damning from its opening sentences which read: “Cricket is a great game. It deserves to have governance, including management and ethics, worthy of the sport. This is not the position at present.”

Lord Woolf says the Test playing nations who have full membership of the board have treated it like a “members club”.

The report identifies the “significant differences between the financial strength of member boards” and the belief that those with more money use it to unduly influence voting at the board. It also condemned the use of “side deals” by countries where support on one issue is given by members in exchange for other “favourable treatment for another project”.

Woolf condemns a lack of transparency on issues resulting in no explanation of why members vote a certain way. The reasons behind the rejection of Howard have never been explained.

Recently the ICC had to backtrack on its intention for the DRS (decision review system) to be used in all Tests because India, led by its president N Srinivasan, objected and that influenced other voters to follow suit. Initially India said the DRS was too expensive but a sponsor was found to subsidise its use. And then the BCCI shifted its objection and said it didn’t trust the technology. Australia, whose chief executive James Sutherland is an advocate of the DRS, voted with India to make its use subject to agreement between the two sides involved.

Australia, like every other cricket nation, relies on the patronage of India for much of its broadcast revenue and it is assumed this was part of the reason for it voting against something it publicly supported.

The report also takes aim at two forms of “conflict of interest” among members which have undermined the activities of the ICC. The first arises from board members who have personal involvement with “sponsors, supplier, broadcasters” and the like or “ownership of property affected by ICC action”. Srinivasan is not only the head of the BCCI, he owns the Chennai Super Kings IPL side and major cricket sponsor India Cements.

The report says there is no memory of any director ever declaring a conflict of interest when it came time to vote at board level.

Woolf takes strongest aim at members who are acting in the parochial interests of their country and not the ICC. “Currently the ICC reacts as though it is primarily a members club; its interest in enhancing the global development of the game is secondary,” it says.

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