Atherton’s Initial Response: a power grab damn it!

atherton  22Michael Atherton, 29 January 2014 in the Sydney Morning Herald, where the title reads “Atherton blasts ‘big-three’ plan

Former England captain Michael Atherton and a leading global anti-corruption watchdog have joined the chorus of criticism regarding plans to effectively cede control of world cricket to India, Australia and England.

Leaked draft proposals to be discussed at a two-day International Cricket Council (ICC) board meeting in Dubai on Tuesday and Wednesday call for more decision-making powers for a three-strong group of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board, who between them represent the game’s wealthiest nations.

There is also a plan to create two divisions for Test cricket but with England, Australia and India all guaranteed to avoid relegation from the top tier because of their commercial importance.

Atherton, now the cricket correspondent of The Times, was scathing in his condemnation of the proposals, writing they represented “the end of the notion that a fair and principled and just body can govern cricket in the interests of all.” Atherton agreed the ICC had to be reformed but said there was little merit in the ‘Big Three’ plan.  “No one doubts that the status quo, as far as the ICC is concerned, is unacceptable: two full-member countries are thought to be corrupt; four are essentially broke; most rely on India’s largesse to keep going… politics, race and personalities interfere with decision-making at every turn. Incompetence is a given.”

Meanwhile Transparency International issued a statement on Monday saying the “intention to entrench a privileged position for ‘The Big Three’ appears to be an abuse of entrusted power for private gain, giving them disproportionate, unaccountable and unchallengeable authority”.

If adopted, the plan would also mean the end of the ICC’s existing Future Tours Program, a system which compels the leading 10 Test nations to play each other during a set period. But the plan’s supporters argue boards would be freed from “unviable” tours, whatever their merit in cricketing terms, and that this would lead ‘the seven’ beyond the ‘Big Three’ to become more financially self-sufficient. The proposals need seven votes from the ICC’s 10 leading nations to pass.

The BCCI have also appeared to float ‘the nuclear option’ of withdrawing from all ICC events if the proposals are not accepted.  This is a potentially disastrous situation for many of the game’s smaller nations given the BCCI, thanks to cricket’s huge popularity in India, currently generates some 80 per cent of the ICC’s global revenue.

Nevertheless, Cricket South Africa and Sri Lanka Cricket, representing two leading countries, if not two of the most financially powerful, have both called for the withdrawal of the ‘position paper’.

Leading former senior administrators, led by Pakistan’s one-time ICC president Ehsan Mani, have also denounced the ‘Big Three’ plan. “Why does the BCCI need more money at the expense of other countries?,” Mani wrote in an open letter to the ICC, adding more funds should be diverted to cricket’s junior nations.

“If cricket could be established properly in the United States of America and China and become an Olympic sport, the ICC could double its revenues in real terms over the next 10-15 years,” he said. “This requires vision and a less parochial approach.”

Former Cricket Australia and ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed and ex-CA and ICC president Malcolm Gray were among those who signed Mani’s letter.Ali Bacher, a former South Africa captain, warned of dire consequences if the ‘Big Three’ plan was adopted.”The Position Paper put forward by BCCI, ECB and CA if accepted would lead to division and strife in world cricket as never seen before,” wrote Bacher.

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