June 28, 2008

Associates

Future bright beyond the Test world

Martin Williamson

Next week's ICC annual get-together promises to have more than its fair share of politicking, posturing and controversy. But, unless there is a major about-turn, it should also be a watershed for the Associates and Affiliates.

In 2009, income from the ICC's six-year media deal with ESPN-Star, worth over US$1 billion, kicks in, and while the game's big boys will still keep the lion's share, the rest will see substantial increases in their incomes.

Although the ICC draws considerable flak on many fronts, it is quietly committed to promoting the game in as many countries as possible, and it does that by means of a myriad of competitions and initiatives. Most do not warrant much media attention, but they are there and they work.

Until now, the gripe of the smaller countries, and especially those bubbling just underneath the top flight, has been about the inequality of the way in which the game is financed. That was never more apparent than when it came to earnings from last year's World Cup.

Ireland got a flat fee of US$125,000 a year for four years for taking part, and on top of that they received another $50,000 for reaching the Super Eights. However, because of the extra costs involved in their progression, not least because their players are not professional cricketers and their absences from their full-time jobs had to be underwritten, Ireland's success actually left the board out of pocket.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, turned up, tied with Ireland and never threatened to progress after being thumped by Pakistan and West Indies. For those three matches, Zimbabwe Cricket received US$11 million, their share of the pot as a Full Member.

The top six Associates receive no more than US$500,000 a year - some substantially less - to fund their entire operations. Out of that they have to pay all their cricketing and administration costs. Only those with a low cost of living, such as Kenya, can hope to maintain a professional squad on that kind of money.

The gulf between the haves and have-nots is further widened by the limited sums Associates can earn from sponsorship and media contracts. Zimbabwe can exploit home series against, say, India to carve out lucrative TV deals worth millions, and on the back of that, attract shirt- and other corporate sponsorship. As highlighted by Scotland's failure to secure any TV deal for their forthcoming ODI against England, the Associates struggle to get such income streams.

The new deals will provide a substantial increase for Associates, especially for the countries who are pressing for space at the top table. Until now the share has been roughly equal, rewarding Netherlands and Kenya on par with Thailand and Fiji. The new system will see more demarcation between the top Associates and the rest.

The leading ten could earn as much as US$1.5 million a year from 2009. There will then be an onus on them to professionalise their administrations, but several of them are already well down that route. They will also be more accountable - the ICC does not want a repeat of the mess that came following a spike in Kenya's funding earlier in the decade.

The second-string Associates will also get more - around US$160,000 as a base figure - but then again the demands on them are less. Even Affiliates will receive US$15,000, with the opportunity for more should they make a good enough case. There will also be more cash in the pot for participating and hosting competitions.

There have never been more opportunities for development outside the Full Member countries, but there remain some nagging worries.

The main one is how to bridge the gap between semi and full-blown professionalism. Almost all the Associates rely on dedicated amateurs, both on and off the field. As the number of ICC competitions has increased - and they have to be welcomed - the pressure has begun to tell. Scotland and Ireland particularly have already found players cannot meet all their commitments, and even the increased income will not allow them to employ a full-time squad.

"So much of putting players on full-time retainers depends on how many fixtures we can command," Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, said. "At the moment, all we can promise the squad in 2009 is a World Cup qualifying campaign, eight FP Trophy matches, an England game, and probably some Intercontinental Cup matches. Of course, we hope to have more, but can't be sure at the moment.

"Our top players are already plying their trade in county cricket, while others have full-time jobs which they may not wish to give up. The actual number of players that the coach will want to put on a full-time contract, or else the number that even want to have one, may not be that many."

The other quandary is how to get them fixtures. Kenya, widely regarded as the leading Associate, have found it almost impossible to get Full Member countries to visit or host them. As a result they invariably play other Associates. Good for the win-loss ratio, not so clever in providing the kind of experience that no amount of money can buy.

These issues will need to be addressed, but for now the future has never looked so promising beyond the Test world.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Ahmadzai on (October 21, 2008, 15:37 GMT)

Dominic Ryan my friend afghanistan has got a much stronger team than usa. you can't compare these two countries. Afghans are neutral born talented in cricket. By what I've seen in Kabul, some afghan players are even ready for test cricket. and if see at the pakistani/indian teams some of the best players are of Afghan decent(Pashtuns/Pathans).

Posted by Sachin on (July 29, 2008, 4:44 GMT)

More money and greater spread of the game around the world will come if cricket gets into the 2012 Olympics in England, noone but cricket2012games.com is trying to ensure that happens.

Posted by Dominic Ryan on (July 23, 2008, 5:19 GMT)

It is indeed sad that US cricket which supposedly was reformed through a revised constitution is still run by administrators with a track record for divisiveness and cunning. The U19 tournament meant to harvest the future of US cricket has been canceled for 2008 by all accounts. The U15 national team to be selected may not be entirely on merit given the bizarre censorship imposed on the announcement of the duly-selected team. And the senior team lost to a team from war-torn Afghanistan where cricket must be the last thing on anyone's mind. And just to make things even gloomier, USACA has no money and worse no conscience. As to how ICC can sit back and watch this disaster unfold is anybody's guess. To think that cricket has a great future in the US and world-wide is just fantasy.

Posted by andrew on (June 28, 2008, 17:48 GMT)

We're trying to develop cricket in El Salavdor& pretty much everything is coming out of the [willing but shallow] pockets of individual enthusiasts. Its a case of we can't really develop it without money, and we can't really get money until we show development. We think there's real potential - but while we're playing on a borrowed football field with no net facitlies or clubhouse, its not easy. Anyone with any suggestion of how we can get money to buy a field & build a simple clubhouse ect?? see outr website for a bit of info about us www.elsalvadorcricket.net

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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