Should Wales apply for ICC membership?
There appears to be an overwhelming tidal wave of opinion growing in Wales among cricketers and fans alike for Wales to apply for independent membership of ICC. This move is also backed by a significant number of Welsh politicians and seems most appropriate if not on reflection somewhat tardy.
Cricket in Wales is a major sport and it has a club and youth base greater than the sum of all the British Isles ICC members outside of England. There are now five of them - Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle Of Man.
In addition to a first-class County side (Glamorgan), Wales also has the MCCU at Cardiff which has been awarded first-class status for 2012 and a minor county side.
In times past (1923-1930) Wales played first class games against the touring Test teams recording a victory over West Indies in 1928 and Wales beat England in an one-day friendly in 2002. From 1993-2001 Wales competed in the British Isles Championships (also called the Triple Crown) and in 2001 Wales beat Ireland by two wickets and by eight wickets in 1999. Since then Ireland have appeared in two ICC ODI World Cups and famously beat England in the last World Cup in India.
In 1979 Wales competed in the ICC Trophy beating the Netherlands and Israel but they lost narrowly to the USA. The match against Sri Lanka was washed out. The 1979 side and that from 1993-2001 was without Glamorgan First XI players.
For those of us who are not Welsh and who love both Rugby and Cricket it has always seemed odd that Wales had not long ago pursued an independent path and raised Welsh cricket to similar heights as their rugby team.The reason seems to be a reluctance in the hierarchy of Glamorgan CCC and Cricket Wales to explore this exciting option.
This negative position of Glamorgan CCC has indeed become exceedingly entrenched and since they control Cricket Wales, the nominal governing body for cricket in Wales, the current set up is how it must stay.
Why, you may ask.
Well because as a result of the merging of the Welsh Cricket Association and the Cricket Board of Wales to form Cricket Wales, an autocratic body was formed whereby Glamorgan CCC holds two votes while the remainder of the membership, 240 clubs and others hold just one vote.
By this perverse anti democratic manoeuvre Glamorgan CCC can control cricket at all levels in Wales in addition to running their own county club.
Quite why those running the county club feel a need to boss the rest of cricket in Wales is mystifying but there are always those who seek to create top down organisations for reasons of efficiency and control and many officials at Glamorgan CCC not only see the club as Wales representative on the field but also as the custodian of Wales cricket heritage.
As currently constituted Cricket Wales can not apply for membership of the International Cricket Council even if it wanted to because it is not an independent autonomous body as is required by ICC. It remains the subsidiary of Glamorgan CCC. So the intransigent hierarchy of Glamorgan and Cricket Wales may, de jure and de facto, exercise their veto ad nauseam.
The sensible solution will be for Tony Lewis to rally around him such a formidable number of leading former Glamorgan players and Welsh grandees as will persuade the current county hierarchy to change their minds. The board could then be unravelled from the county club, disassociate itself from ECB and the application to ICC go ahead.
However if the "blazers" at the Swalec Stadium keep their heads firmly in the sand with their minds stuck in the past then the only way forward is via the Welsh Assembly. The Assembly has the authority to declare that ECB has no writ in Wales and that Glamorgan CCC, a public members club, has no right of governance over cricket in Wales.
The submission made by Cricket Wales Chief Executive Peter Hybert to the Welsh Assembly is for the most part stark raving bonkers! Whether this derives from the fear of the unknown or just because of the strength of Cricket Wales/Glamorgan CCC's position one may only conjecture.
He asserts that an independent Wales will lead to the demise of Glamorgan and its exclusion from ECB competitions. This is wrong. Glamorgan CCC is a member and guarantor of the ECB and its position remains unchanged. Furthermore David Collier, ECB chief executive, has stated publicly that Glamorgan's position within the ECB would remain unchanged if Wales was to become a member of the ICC.
The presence of the several Welsh Football clubs playing in the English League and FA Cup while in membership of an independent Wales FA has continued for a century or more so why not Glamorgan likewise?
Peter Hybert further asserts that Wales’ representative youth teams will have to withdraw from the ECB’s under-15 and under-17 County Championship and matches against Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands and Denmark will not be of the same high standard. Obviously Peter Hybert has failed to notice that Scotland, who have been independent for almost 20 years, continue to play in the same competitions. So why not Wales also? In fact David Collier repeats what he said about Glamorgan.
Scotland Under-15s and Under-17s not only play in ECB county competitions but in ICC Europe's senior European division adding to the volume of representative cricket and overseas travel. Indeed, the Scotland and Ireland Under-19 sides have the opportunity of reaching an Under 19s World Cup. There is no reason why the quality of coaching of the elite youth groups would diminish, rather they may be enhanced. Certainly the opportunity for international competition is likely to encourage more Welsh gifted games players to persevere with cricket.
Matthew Maynard, arguably Wales' best batsman of recent decades, in an interview with BBC refutes Peter Hybert's assertions. He argues that an independent Wales with the youth sides enjoying international competition would have helped his development as a player. Further that experience of adult international matches with an independent Wales would have assisted in making him a more complete player by the time he made his Test debut for England.
The one and important problem for Cricket Wales, not Glamorgan CCC, if independence were to be realised, is a shortfall in funding in its early years. The initial funding from ICC for a new associate member is way short of what ECB provides for Cricket Wales. However once Wales has achieved the status through competition of a senior associate then ICC funding is greater than that of the ECB. Should Wales qualify for an ODI or Twenty20 World Cup the funding from the ICC dwarfs that from the ECB.
The last important argument put forward by Peter Hybert is that the staging of England Test matches at the SWALEC stadium would cease. This is arguable. Glamorgan as a member of ECB will continue to have the right to compete for England Tests and ODIs. The ECB’s decision to allocate such matches to the SWALEC will be a business decision not one of emotional pique.
In reality the success of an independent Wales eventually leading to Test status should enhance Glamorgan CCC as a powerful contestant in the ECB county competitions.
If Wales was to match Ireland & Scotland’s rate of improvement since independence then even Test status is a real possibility. If New Zealand and West Indies can sustain Test cricket and a place at the top table then surely so can Wales. That is the vision that should be embraced by Cricket Wales.