Yesterday, Rahul Dravid delivered the Bradman Oration at the National War Memorial in Canberra, wherein he called for “standing up to the game’s basic decencies”, “respect for the fan in the stadium”, and for administrators to understand that “because the game is bigger than us all, we must think way ahead of how it stands today”. Sadly, the current payments crisis in Sri Lankan Cricket and governance crisis elsewhere in international cricket seems to highlight everything that is antithetical to what Dravid seems to stand for. Amrut Joshi, Founder, Gamechanger Sports Ventures had the opportunity to catch up with Tim May, former Australian off spinner of the 90s vintage, and currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA) (http://www.thefica.com/en/about-fica/overview) to discuss the issues that are plaguing both Sri Lankan Cricket and International Cricket.
(1) Amrut Joshi (AJ): One of the reasons offered by SLC for the current payments crisis is the fact that it had to incur a huge debt to finance the building of two international cricket stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, and to renovate the ground in Colombo, for the World Cup. Is this the only reason for the crisis or is there more to it? Are there deeper governance issues that have brought about this situation?
Tim May (TM): As far as I am aware, the “bulk of the blame” for SLC’s debt lies with the over expenditure on the World Cup facilities. I don’t think that you can specifically point the finger at “Governance Issues”, it sounds more like mismanagement of capital expenditure.
The reasons for such expenditure need to be heavily audited and the “root of the issue” will emerge from such audit. Of course, it is probably relevant to say, that the Governance Structure of the SLC, which has seen series after series of “Interim Committees” is a recipe for short, medium and long term disaster. Cricket needs professional consistent management, not the rotating door system that SLC has employed.
(2) AJ: If indeed, it is SLC’s debt repayment which has to take priority over payment of contractual dues to Players, is this fair on the Players? Is it possible to ring-fence player payments from a Board’s debt obligations so that such situations don’t arise in future?
TM: Of course it is not fair on players – the players are the product. Without the players there is no product – so it follows that if you don’t pay the players you may not have a product to sell. No product – no revenues. There needs to be a careful path and balance agreed in achieving an appropriate course of debt reduction. This will only be possible with the co operation and approval of the players and their representatives.
(3) AJ: Considering that it was the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 that triggered the current crisis, shouldn’t the ICC be taking a more proactive role in ensuring that the Players receive their dues at the earliest?
TM: The ICC has been busy behind the scenes to assist the players. I think it is probably worthwhile mentioning that whilst the stadiums were built for the World Cup, the decisions regarding venues and renovations etc., basically lie with the host nation (SLC). The cost overruns and any decisions regarding capital expenditure of these stadiums lay squarely at the feet of the SLC.
(4) AJ: This is not the only instance of player payments being delayed in the cricketing world. A FICA press release of September 2011 also confirmed that even the cash-rich IPL had witnessed delays in payment of player’s contractual dues. The ICL has also not paid several of the Players who participated in the League. Would the FICA know if the payments-crisis has percolated deeper within the domestic cricket structure of its member associations’ boards?
TM: There have been instances in some countries (and their domestic teams) not paying players, underpaying players or avoiding payment to players. Unfortunately we are seeing more of it in recent times.
There are a number of cricket Boards that are under extreme financial pressure, and one wonders how long the ICC and its Member Boards will continue with the current financial model that it applies to ICC Event distributions and income distribution from FTP matches.
International cricket is seeing an increasing number of countries trending towards financial collapse. International cricket and the structures beneath that “feed” International cricket are under threat in a number of countries, and as players this concerns us considerably.
(5) AJ: Is it time for Players/Players Associations to push for standard payment cycle clauses in Player Contracts? Would the FICA or other associations advocate the use of penal interest provisions/damages in the event of delays by organizers in making payments?
TM: Player Contracts typically include payments on a retainer basis that are spread out evenly throughout the contract period (i.e.: monthly) and also include match payments that are due on the completion of those matches.
In times of uncertainty as to whether the Boards will pay the players or not – Player Associations will be insisting that Player Contracts specify that a significant proportion of players’ fees will be paid in advance of matches.
If payment is not received prior to a specified date, then the players will have right to withdraw from the game. Of course we would hope that we would never have to face such situation, but players simply cannot accept the current situation where they keep on playing without any surety of payment.
(6) AJ: Do the Players fear or adverse publicity or victimization if they were to resort to a legal process to recover their rightful dues?
TM: Yes – in some countries. Some Boards thrive on ruling by fear and intimidation.
(7) AJ: Recently, the ICC appointed Lord Harry Woolf, the former Chief Justice of England and Wales, as chairman of the independent governance review of the ICC. FICA has called for the recommendations of this review to be made public. Will the ICC oblige?
TM: The ICC has gone on record as saying the report will be made public –it would be extraordinary (but not unexpected) for the ICC Executive Board to renege on such public pronouncement. You don’t need to have studied Corporate Governance to realize that the recommendations from Woolf will be reasonably damning of the structure of the ICC.
The present structure is almost the opposite of what is required for effective Governance. It is full of conflicts of interests, “party line” and “bullying” voting practices , it rarely decides issues according to the ICC charter of “what is in the best interests of cricket as a whole”, and it has a Board who is not effectively skilled to meet the challenges of today’s commercial and cricketing landscape.
(8) AJ: What are some of the main areas that the FICA would like Lord Woolf to focus on?
TM: See the previous question – independence, skills and an increased focus of decision making being in the interests of the game as a whole, not the interests of the powerful
(9) AJ: As the year 2011 winds down, what would you list as being FICA’s major positive contributions for the welfare of players in 2011?
TM: Our major contributions have been many fold, from the continued efforts to hold ICL accountable for the outstanding payments to players and support staff, to the pressure that we have applied to the CLT20 to ensure that player payments were paid in a reasonable time frame following the disgraceful situation where players had to wait over seven months to receive prize money totaling $6m for the 2010 Event or the continued efforts to hold BCCI accountable for non-payment of IPL fees to a number of players. FICA continues to provide support, advice and leadership to players throughout the world across a range of issues and simply will not take a backward step in ensuring that players are treated with the respect that is deserving of International sportsmen.
(10) AJ: What is the FICA’s outlook for 2012? Are there any pet projects that FICA would like to take up in 2012?
TM: We have a couple of high level focus points in 2012 – Firstly ,the eradication of Corruption from our game and secondly assisting our fledging and lesser resourced Player Associations to be able to grow and receive appropriate recognition within their territories from their Boards and general public. As always cricket will be “issue rich” in 2012 and FICA will be there as ever to protect and promote the players’ interests.