The Tim Brooks Column
Just as we can gain members, we can lose them too
The Tim Brooks Column: Previous Articles
When the ICC reached the milestone of 100 member nations the development team rightly raised their bat to acclaim and applause. Cricket, long since considered a colonial pastime, could demonstrate that it was a truly global sport. And it could do so with transparent, measurable criteria, not merely anecdotal evidence of the game played in all corners of the globe.
Since the dawn of the new millennium the increased focus on expanding the global game has seen the ranks swell and the recruitment drive has continued with each AGM seeing more colour on the cricketing atlas. With Russia due to be welcomed into the fold this year a vast swathe of white will be filled. And to the ICC’s credit the vast majority of these nations have competed internationally in the framework of tournaments, such as WCL and T20 World cup qualifiers and regional youth tournaments, that have been created for non full members. This has thrown up some intriguing fixtures, and some eye-watering statistical anomalies, for the cricket fan with a global outlook to cherish.
So given this success many have asked where the membership figure will settle. Many think around 115, some even say 120. A lot less than football of course, but nonetheless a figure that sceptics with a myopic view of cricket as merely the test nations would not have thought possible a few decades ago. But with all eyes on gaining members have we been blind to the prospect of losing them?
After all, ICC membership comes with criteria that must be met. An affiliate member cannot simply take its annual bursary and rest on its laurels. Well, some would say it could, but not anymore it seems. Despite harangues and entreaties from their regional development officers some members have been doing just that. In failing to enter tournaments or meet development objectives they are, in reality, invalidating their membership. In the past the ICC have turned a blind eye to these ‘bad apples’ in its orchard but that is changing. While the ICC have on the whole been timid in their approach to their members, especially in the face of the BCCI, they have on occasion bared their teeth, for instance in their suspension of the USA Cricket Association. And there is every indication that they shall do so again and set the much unwanted precedent of withdrawing membership.
The ICC are losing patience with some of their under-performing, and indeed in many instances ‘non-performing’, members. They have warned them that the terms of membership require certain criteria to be met. If such warnings go unheeded then proceedings become more formal, with a member being suspended from competitions until such time as they meet the minimum criteria for their membership category. If this does not spur the member into action then the ICC will use the ultimate sanction of withdrawing membership. This is likely to be the case for several members within the next two years, unless they pull their finger out at the 11th hour.
As you can imagine this is not an outcome that anyone wants, least of all the ICC communications department who are used to drafting press releases welcoming members not saying farewell. And what if, starved of funding or players, other members teeter on the brink? Will the ICC’s hard fought century prove short-lived, the bat once held proudly aloft to the pavilion of the press dropping sheepish to their side? Hopefully that will not happen, but people should not be blind to the possibility and the considerable challenge of keeping members engaged and improving.
Another taboo word to add to ‘withdrawal’ is ‘demotion’. Over the last decade some affiliates have been promoted to associate members and Ireland have made their bid to join the ranks of the full members. But what if an associate or even a full member fail to meet their membership criteria? Shouldn’t they be demoted? Again, it is not a headline the ICC want to see but if they are serious in their rhetoric of being a transparent, fair and accountable steward of the global game then they must act on poor performance just as they celebrate and reward success. Full members get considerably larger grants than their associate cousins and there should be an expectation that they prove it is well spent. If it was a hereditary title, a job for life, as many have assumed, then there would not be the need for membership criteria. As there is, then the ICC must measure whether they are met, and act accordingly if they aren’t.
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