Another setback in search for new KNCB chairman
The soap opera which is the KNCB’s search for a new chairman entered a phase which came perilously close to farce on Tuesday evening, when a meeting between the ad hoc committee chaired by former Ajax Amsterdam general manager Maarten Fontein and representatives of the Topklasse and Hoofdklasse clubs saw the former group walk out after their proposals for the future of Dutch cricket had been summarily rejected by the latter.
Appointed by the outgoing KNCB Board to search for a chairman and treasurer and to make recommendations regarding the future structure of the Board, the Fontein committee had reportedly broadened its own remit to include the structure of Dutch cricket as a whole.
Their presentation apparently centred on this aspect, with a radical proposal to split domestic cricket into a professional competition and an amateur one, with the recreational league reverting to the values which were dominant before Associates cricket grew into the highly-organised international system it has now become.
The club representatives reacted overwhelmingly negatively to this idea, taking the position that Dutch cricket was too small to split so fundamentally into two and questioning whether there was a sufficient financial basis for such a level of domestic professionalization.
Fontein’s approach, with its substantial degree of mission creep, seems to have been based on the notion that it was necessary to establish what the future of cricket should be before looking for appropriate candidates, and that fundamental change – essentially along the lines which were canvassed in an internal debate at HCC which was subsequently republished on CricketEurope – was an essential element in that future.
According to VRA chairman John Wories, the Fontein group proposed simultaneously that the Netherlands should be pressing hard for rapid advancement to Test status and that the overseas-produced members of the national squad should be dropped.
‘I found their proposals entirely unrealistic,’ Wories added, ‘and the overall impression they gave was that they had no real understanding of the current position of Dutch cricket.’
When the club representatives said that the group’s approach had already been discussed and rejected and that they were not interested in returning to it, Fontein and his colleagues reportedly replied that their role had therefore come to an end, and they left the meeting.
What followed was a new discussion among the club representatives themselves, in which it became clear that while some clubs are keen to reduce the number of overseas players in the top divisions and to spend the money thus saved on youth development, others are content with the status quo and wish to maintain the existing regime.
A small sub-group, under the leadership of interim KNCB chairman Jacques Mulders, was however formed to continue the search for new Board members, and in particular a chairman who is both suitably qualified and willing to take on the job.
‘It doesn’t help,’ said one club chairman after the meeting, ‘that the atmosphere can so easily become so negative. Some potential candidates for a position which is after all voluntary are put off by the hostility in the air.’
Interim chairman Mulders, however, is relatively positive about the position which has now been reached.
‘The reaction of the club representatives to the Fontein committee’s ideas was that the Bond is heading in the right direction,’ he said on Friday, ‘and that is an important step forward.
‘ We are grateful to the Fontein group for the work they have done, and I’m optimistic that we will be able to achieve our aim of assembling a new Board within two months.’
It is now more than a year since outgoing chairman Marc Asselbergs and treasurer Peter van Wel announced their intention to stand down, and even if Mulders and his working party meet their timetable a good deal of time will have been wasted.
The situation was allowed to drift for most of 2011, and the attempt to find a solution through the appointment of Fontein’s group has proved to have been seriously misjudged. Mulders is currently both secretary and interim chairman, and part of a two-man Board with his colleague Willem Winckel.
The KNCB now has a dedicated, hard-working and recently-expanded staff, who need to be given room to perform their tasks as effectively as possible, under the eye of a Board whose role is less hands-on than it has been in the past.
Dutch cricket needs a chairman who is, in the words of the 2006 committee, ‘ the conductor of the orchestra’, and who is able to articulate the collective vision for the future of the game which is evident in the current Youth Plan and which ought to be extended to include all aspects of the sport.
There are many challenges ahead, not least the ICC’s inconsistent treatment of its Associate members, the ECB’s plans to restructure English domestic cricket and the threat which arises from the new funding policies of the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF), and effective leadership is urgently required if the green shoots of cricket’s recovery which have begun to appear are not to wither on the branch.