Australia news October 25, 2012

First female director wants to forge path for others

Jacquie Hey, Cricket Australia's first-ever female board director, has pledged to do a "damn good job" running the game, stating her desire to smooth the path for other women to follow her into what had for 107 years been a pale, stale and male world of cricket governance.

Formally sworn in as part of CA's streamlined board at the AGM on Thursday, Hey joined the Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever and the former Colorado Group chief executive Kevin Roberts as fresh sets of eyes in the boardroom. Hey's background is with Sony Ericsson, while she is currently a director on the boards of Bendigo Bank and SBS.

The trio form part of a board that is the result of the Crawford/Carter review of Australian cricket governance, which pushed CA to abandon the tired federal model of a 14-man board that had remained more or less unchanged since 1905.

Irrespective of compelling business credentials, it was Hey's admission as the first female board member that felt most significant, and she acknowledged with some pride that another avenue had now been opened for women.

"I'm so proud and privileged and honoured to be given this role," Hey said. "It's deep inside me that I really feel how important this is, and how important that I do a damn good job, because I want to make sure that I'm not the first and only, but I'm the first of many women that are involved in administration and board roles in cricket.

"There are some at the state level already, which is fantastic. So I'm here, I'm on show and I will do a good job and make sure there are many more women following me."

Hey's love for the game is deep, fostered by a childhood spent playing beach cricket with her father and brother on the Victorian coast south of Geelong. An avowed lover of Test cricket, she confessed to clearing her schedule at times in order to watch five days of the game's enduring form, and winced at the memory of Australia's 2005 Ashes loss when she was working with Ericsson in England - and copping a predictable level of banter.

"I think it is important to have the three [formats]," she said. "If I look at myself, I've grown up with Test cricket, day one of a Test match, if I'm not at the ground it's like 'don't disturb me, because I'm sitting on my couch and I'm watching'. But I have a son who's nearly nine, and he doesn't have the attention span to sit for five days and watch it, but he will love to get involved in T20, the colours and the music and so on. So I think it is really important that we continue to maintain that balance, because there are different cricketing sectors out there who do appreciate different types of the game, and some who appreciate all of them."

The new, nine-person board begins its tenure at a time when CA are negotiating a new round of local media rights. While the incumbent - and cash-strapped - Nine Network has the luxury of an exclusive negotiating period, other suitors may well be found for the Twenty20 Big Bash League. Hey's background with Ericsson and more recent experience with SBS gives her an insight into the rights issue, especially those in the burgeoning digital field. Previously CA's digital content was made available through 3 Mobile and Vodafone, but with their sponsorship agreement coming to an end it may be time for a new approach.

"I think with sport generally these days, and you can go back a long way, the content has always been the key thing in a digital environment," Hey said. "So clever companies develop all sorts of websites and all sorts of interactions for ways to deal with customers, but the content has always been at the centre of that.

"So I think for CA the challenge, looking at it from the outside in as a technology person, is you own a fabulous amount of content there, so what does CA do with it. They have a large number of options open to them, which I know is something they're thinking about. They have a fantastic website today which is really engaging, bright and colourful and informative and that's a good start … there's a lot more they could do."

As for CA's stated desire to grow the game's audience to better reflect the diversity of 21st century Australia, Hey can see enough evidence of strong words being backed by action. Her ascension to the board is but one example, the BBL's push away from traditional team identities and logos another.

"In doing things like voting me onto the board today, they're not just talking about it, they're actually doing things about it," she said. "That's a fantastic step for females, and they're also embracing multicultural Australia and recognising there are a lot of people coming to Australia from overseas who come from both cricketing backgrounds, for example Indians, or non-cricketing backgrounds with a lot of the African nations coming in.

"But sport has always been that thing that has united people, across different cultures and different boundaries. I think it is fantastic that CA is both strategically and practically making sure they're part of that embrace of different cultures."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here