ICC to discuss radical report
Dubai - The International Cricket Council is set to consider sweeping reforms next week which could weaken the influence of Test-playing nations and bring greater transparency and accountability to the sport's governing body.
The reforms face one potentially insurmountable hurdle.
India, the most powerful Test-playing nation, has already rejected the Woolf report that will be discussed during the ICC's executive board meeting starting Sunday.
Soon after the report commissioned by the ICC board was released, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said at a meeting in February that it saw no reason to change the status quo.
India's opposition raises doubts over whether any of the 65 recommendations will be approved and is likely to embolden critics of the South Asia cricketing nation, who believe it holds too much influence over the game.
"If India objects to the main recommendations of the Woolf review, then there is next to no chance of the recommendations being enacted," said Lawrence Booth, the editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. "You are asking the powerful nations to cede their power. It just doesn't happen."
The 68-page report, which was commissioned by the ICC board, calls for overhauling the sport's governing body to ensure the ICC is no longer "a club" for the Test playing nations. Instead, the ICC should be "positioned and empowered to promote, develop and act in the best interests of the international game as a whole," the report concludes.
Among its most contentious recommendations is reducing the influence of Test-playing nations.
It calls for restructuring the ICC's executive board to make it independent and give a greater voice to associate and affiliate nations. Currently, the 10 full members are the only ones with a vote on the board but the report recommends adding three independent, voting members and an independent chairman to lead the board.
The report also recommends that associate and affiliate countries be given an easier path to full membership and for cricket revenue to be distributed on an as-needed basis rather than through automatic entitlement. Surplus revenues generated from ICC activities should be given to all cricketing nations. Now, 75 percent of that goes to the full members.
The independent report also takes aim at the ethics at the ICC and, in effect, the Test-playing nations with a number of measures aimed at weeding out corruption. It calls for all conflicts of interest to be "declared, assessed and addressed" and that a director who has a conflict of interest and who stands to benefit should be excluded from decision-making matters.
"Failure to respond to the criticisms will cause consequential harm to the ICC's vision of a bigger and better future for cricket," the report's co-authors Harry Woolf, a former English judge, and Richard Sykes of PricewaterhouseCoopers wrote. "In addition, unless the ICC is in the position to make it clear that significant changes are imminent, many of the members most adversely affected by the present situation could lose their enthusiasm for trying to achieve improvements in the situation."
The report has garnered little response from the full members beyond India.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has expressed a willingness to consider parts of the report. Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said the board would "be silly" to reject the recommendations of the Woolf report outright.
"No organization should be satisfied that it can't improve in some way by taking on recommendations to bring us closer to best practice," he told reporters in February.
Transparency International also has weighed in, calling for the board to approve the ethics and anti-corruption measures and including a swift timetable for their implementation.
Even if India leads the charge against the reforms, Booth predicted the country wouldn't be hurt mostly due to the fact that most of the other cricketing powers including England are also lukewarm about any reforms.
"The powerful nations are happy with the situation where they get a large chunk of the annual handout from the ICC," Booth said. "They don't want to invite new countries in. They certainly don't want some independent director telling them the way they have been running the game isn't in line with best practices in corporate governance. They are quite happy to maintain the status quo."
Sharda Ugra, who was interviewed as part of the report and writes for the ESPN cricinfo website, said the BCCI isn't concerned about its international reputation.
"The last thing the BCCI worries about is its image or what messages their actions send," Ugra said. "In that sense, it functions like political superpowers do. The BCCI is interested in protecting its financial interests, which it is fully entitled to, and its control over the international game, rather than its responsibility as its role as the financial leader of the game."
Still, some lesser recommendations could be approved. Already, the ICC board in January approved splitting the various roles of the presidency. Based on the Woolf recommendation, a new system starting in 2014 would limit the presidency to an ambassadorial role, while a chairman would lead the board.
In other business, the board may choose an executive board vice president to replace the outgoing Alan Isaac. It was supposed to go to Bangladesh Cricket Board President Mustafa Kamal but has been complicated by the country's reluctance to tour Pakistan - one of the main backers of Kamal's candidacy.
Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Zaka Ashraf said this week it would have to reconsider its cricketing relations with Bangladesh if the team doesn't come to play in early May.