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Action Replay: Power Play

We’ve written before about the power struggles in rugby union, among clubs and national and international associations, especially over who gets the money from TV coverage (Action Replay, November last year). Now we turn our attention to cricket, where a comparable clash of interests is being played out.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is the international governing body. It has 106 members, including countries such as Bulgaria, which has only eight clubs. So naturally it is dominated by the ten full members, those that play Tests, from Australia to Zimbabwe. But within these there is an inner elite, Australia, England and India. And now these three have proposed a new system that concentrates the money and power even more in their hands. South Africa is currently the top-ranked Test team, but the country is not such a big player financially.

Under the new system, which was agreed by the ICC on 8 February, there will be an executive committee to run the Council, and this will be dominated by the elite three. There will be two Test divisions, incorporating some of the current associate members such as Ireland, and the elite cannot be relegated from the first division, wherever they finish. The income from broadcasting rights is to be redistributed, with the top three becoming relatively wealthier than the other ICC members, and with India doing particularly well in financial terms.

In fact India has been generally seen as the villain of the piece. Cricket is the national sport there, with enormous crowds and TV audiences and the massively popular and lucrative Indian Premier League. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have been described as acting like ‘lawless thugs’ (Scyld Berry, Telegraph online, 1 February). The whole idea may well be an attempt to stop the BCCI from picking up their bat, stumps and ball and walking away from world tournaments and tours to other countries.

Berrywent on to say that, if the BCCI were to leave and refuse to defend their World Cup title, ‘India’s government and people will not allow them to get away with it’. Which is a rather optimistic approach to how the power-brokers and money-men operate.

PB