Sennik comes out fighting
In an open letter to Cricinfo, Ben Sennik, the president of the Canadian Cricket Association, has hit back at recent critcisms of the board and him personally.
would imagine in common with most national cricketing bodies operating under the ICC umbrella, the Canadian Cricket Association (CCA) prefers to avoid conducting its business via the media. In the case of the CCA, we avoid doing so simply out of a desire not to bore cricket fans around the globe with the myriad of background situations and challenges which confront any national cricket organization.
However, due to the litany of aggressive commentary appearing on the Cricinfo website in recent months about the CCA, I feel compelled to offer some defence. I do so not out of any need for personal gratification, but rather as recognition of the on-going support of Canada's Provincial Cricket Associations and the thousands of players across the country.
I refer specifically to four articles:
i) Commentary about the CCA president being "eccentric" and the CCA "shooting itself in the foot" for severing the relationship with a person appointed to the portfolio of Marketing and Communication. The article was written by that same person.
ii) Criticism of the CCA's marketing, merchandising and promotional activities.
iii) Criticism of the CCA's selection procedures.
iv) Article entitled "The blinkered world of the Canadian Cricket Association".
Cricinfo has done a stellar job as one of the primary sources for cricket information internationally (including, I believe, winning internet media industry awards). The CCA respects Cricinfo's right as a media vehicle to present its views and opinions. However, we believe that that right is accompanied by a responsibility to ensure unbiased content.
Despite the fact that the four articles have a common thread, I will spare your readers a tiresome (but easy) point-by-point rebuttal. Instead, I concentrate on what the CCA has achieved in recent years.
1. Financial In the 2005-2006 financial year, and for the first time in over a decade, the CCA has succeeded in recording a small operating surplus. It has also substantially reduced the debt load inherited from a previous administration. For the third year in succession, the CCA has completed a Canadian finance industry-approved audit. We are pleased to have joined the select group of national cricket bodies operating within ICC which can claim such a sound financial standing. We are confident that ICC, and other cricketing nations, appreciate such fiscal prudence.
2. Facilities The CCA has recently succeeded in adding a second ICC-approved ODI ground (Maple Leaf CC, near Toronto). As such, Canada is the only country in the Americas with such facilities. We take only small pride in that latter point: we would like to work with other recognised cricket bodies in the Americas to lift their facilities to similar levels.
3. Sponsorship Cricket is far from being a major sport in Canadian sponsorship circles. Nevertheless, the rapidly changing demographics in the country are making it more attractive to companies which are committed to an ethnic marketing approach. The CCA has recently attracted five corporate sponsors and has had lengthy discussions with companies in areas such as financial services, the automotive sector and both print and electronic media. Canada is far from alone among ICC Associate Member countries in facing sponsorship challenges. However, we continue to confront those challenges - with some successes.
4. Government Support Governments represent a further - and important - area of financial support (a measure of that importance is the favourable situation for Bermudan cricket with the recent injection of US$11 million from the national government).
The CCA was pleased to work with the provincial Ontario government to help secure a recent grant of Can $1 million for cricket in Ontario, Canada's largest cricketing region. We are also in discussions with the Canadian federal government to secure long-term support for the sport. Quite rightly, the government requires the sport's organizing body to be on a sound financial footing (now proven). It also requires the CCA to offer support to all groups including recent and previous immigrants, Canadians of aboriginal descent and to both female and male cricketers (all, either done or in the process of being done).
5. The Playing Side Canada remains the only Associate Member country to have qualified for three World Cups. The ICC High Performance Program is ensuring that the top stratum of Associate Member cricket is becoming more and more competitive. We are dedicated to maintaining Canada's position in that stratum. This is evidenced by the fact that Canada will be playing in the Intercontinental Cup final in 2007, following victories in four-day games over Kenya and Bermuda.
6. More On The Playing Side The availability of two ICC-approved grounds in Toronto is attracting the attention of the Boards of Control of ICC Full Member countries. We have had extensive discussions with several countries about playing bilateral or tri-series in Toronto, both in the 50-over format and Twenty20 (as an aside, the Twenty20 form may well prove particularly suited to the North American market which is accustomed to three-hour baseball games). Again, it would be imprudent to make public such discussions prior to their finalisation.
All of these points which I outline were made formally at the 2006 CCA AGM - a meeting which was open to, and attended by, representatives of the media.
If all of the above represents "eccentricity" and "a blinkered world", then I as CCA president and the CCA as a body stand guilty. I would respectfully suggest, however, that this is far from being the case.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa