The ICC numbers that just don't add up
So let’s get this clear: according to Haroon Lorgat, the ICC Executive Board had no choice but to balance an increase in the number of qualifiers in the 2015 World Cup by reducing the numbers in the 2012 and 2014 World Twenty20 tournaments.
‘If you change one, you have to change the other,’ he is quoted as saying. ‘In the World Twenty20, we were prepared to go up to 16 teams competing in that event. In order to balance all of that, it was very much a package decision we had made where funding would have balanced out, the model would have balanced out, the competition would have worked in my view... Once you change one, you have to see what the implications are on the other.’
Not only is Mr Lorgat’s attempted explanation deeply unconvincing, it is, quite frankly, an insult to the world cricket community that he should expect such a feeble argument to be taken seriously.
The next World Cup is due to be played in 2015, so that any additional cost of including four qualifiers will not be incurred for four years. Even the qualifying tournament, which could have been scrapped had the Board’s plan to confine the Cup itself to the ten Full members gone ahead, will not be played until 2014, or 2013 at the earliest.
The money that will be saved by cutting back the presence of Associate and Affiliate teams in the 2012 World Twenty20 tournament, on the other hand, will come considerably earlier, so the notion of balance simply makes no sense.
Quite apart from that, even a cursory inspection of the ICC’s published accounts reveals that the financial argument holds less water than you’d find in an ICC Board’s member’s whisky.
After all, the ICC’s operating surplus last year was $US 76 million, on total declared revenue of $135 million. The 2010 World Twenty20 tournament alone made a profit of $73.5 million, $67.3 million of which was paid out to the members, with a further $6.2 million being allocated to the Global Development Programme.
So the notion that the decision to reduce the number of qualifiers for the 2012 and 2014 T20 events was inevitable because otherwise the budget wouldn’t have balanced is simply ludicrous: there could have been plenty of money available to cover the relatively trivial amounts (estimated at around $3 million per event) involved.
But, of course, that might have eaten into the massive sums the Full members insist on paying themselves, and it might even have meant a tightening of the belt elsewhere in the budget. And that is naturally unthinkable.
The truth is that it’s all about priorities, and for the men who run most of the Full members, and represent them on the ICC Executive Board and its committees, the interests and needs of the 95 Associates and Affiliates come a long way down the priority list.
The suspicion is bound to remain that the reversal of the decision to expand the World Twenty20 championship was a price extracted by vengeful Full members outraged by the fact that their attempt to turn the World Cup into a cosy closed shop had failed, and the quite obviously empty claims of the CEO that it was a financially-driven balancing act actually serve to reinforce those suspicions rather than removing them.
And they are further encouraged by the underhand way in which the decisions were handled, with the reversion of the World Cup to 14 teams widely touted – and carefully leaked – even before it had been taken, while the disgraceful cutting of the T20 championship was buried in the fine print and delayed until the ‘good news’ had taken over the headlines.
The offence is, of course, compounded by the fact that the qualifying process for the 2012 tournament had already begun, and the Associate and Affiliate members would be absolutely justified in contesting this decision, if necessary all the way to the Council of Arbitration for Sport.
But the way the affair has been handled is a further demonstration, if one were needed, that the ICC as a whole, and its scandalously inequitable constitution, are not fit for purpose.
Of course it’s true that the vast bulk of the Council’s income derives from the international cricket played by the Full members, and in particular from commercial contracts driven by the huge passion for the sport in the Sub-continent and its diaspora.
But its stated goals emphasise its global character, in spite of which its constitution is carefully constructed to ensure that power is held by a powerful, unscrupulous ruling clique. Instead of tinkering with the election procedures for the President, the Board should be confronting this inequity, and making proposals for a structure truly worthy of a global governing body with 105 members and a genuine desire to develop the game in all of them.
Any constitution which permits decision-making of the kind we saw in Hong Kong last week is in urgent need of change, and any CEO who permits himself the kind of vacuous nonsense Mr Lorgat reportedly spouted in defence of that decision-making should be invited to consider his position. Except, of course, it was vacuous nonsense spouted in the service of Mr Lorgat’s masters.