Grim legal tussle expected at Board meeting
A grim legal tussle between three of the most powerful cricket boards and three of their unexpectedly stubborn adversaries is set play itself out when the ICC's Board of directors meets in Singapore on Saturday.
Cricket South Africa has sent its "formal response" to the Big Three's revamp proposals in a nine-page letter to ICC president Alan Isaac. Sri Lanka Cricket has been involved in a terse exchange of correspondence with Iain Higgins, the ICC's head of legal affairs, over the constitutionality of the proposals and has responded in severe tones to Higgins' belief that the proposals could be "considered" as they were legally sound. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the third board to oppose the proposals, has also sent a letter about its reservations, the details of which are unknown, and has maintained that it will oppose some of the resolutions. Officials of the three boards met in Singapore on Friday afternoon for a series of strategy meetings.
The Big Three, however, remain confident that they will be able to win over one of the three boards and therefore have the numbers to push the radical proposals through, giving themselves greater financial revenue and executive control.
While bilateral bargains could be a starting point, the BCCI is particularly keen on using the possibility of staging one half of IPL 2014 outside India, with general elections in the country scheduled to take place in April-May. It is believed that the Bangladesh Cricket Board, which had opposed the position paper before the Dubai meeting, will go to Singapore with the two-tier Test structure removed from the proposals and will look to increase its intake from ICC from the projected $68 million. The BCB will also look to settle bilateral series with India (possibly in 2016) and Australia this year, and seek a slot from England. Once its interests are taken care of, the BCB is expected to go with the majority.
SLC has always stated that, despite ICC pressures, it cannot act outside the will of its executive committee. That was the plank the board stood on when it asked for a deferral of the position paper, and it has been the major thread in its communications over the last week.
The two documents - from CSA to Isaac and SLC to Higgins - available with ESPNcricinfo, offer starting points of the strategy that could be adopted by the two boards in Saturday's meeting.
In its letter, CSA has offered a detailed response to the "key principles" in the revamped proposals, made alternatives recommendations and expressed its willingness to "proceed with the revamp despite obvious procedural flaws". SLC is expected to base its opposition on the interpretation of the ICC constitution, having already raised questions over the legality of the proposals. The Sri Lankan board is also likely to question the impartiality of Higgins following communications with the latter over the last few days on the legal standing of the proposals.
CSA's letter was measured and detailed, with references to its history in the ICC and to former South Africa president Nelson Mandela, along with repeated use of the word "democratic". The South African board has accepted a few broad principles announced by the ICC and rejected outright "the complete de-regulation of the current FTP structure." The letter has stated that CSA does not support the new bilateral FTP because it "would not be in the best interest of international cricket and therefore ICC members." It has asked for "basic principles regulating/governing bilateral arrangements and agreements" and wants the ICC to provide that "necessary co-ordination" while working the FTP around ICC sponsorship cycles.
The central element of the redrafted resolutions is based on a graded revenue-distribution model that CSA has said it cannot agree to without a "full and detailed understanding of the criteria/inputs and mechanism that would drive funding allocations." This needed to be made transparent to all members "to understand and be able to advance their position."
CSA has also asked for the number of members on the new Executive Committee (ExCo) to be increased from the proposed five to six and said it "deserves status" on the Big Three's most influential committees - ExCo and Finance & Commercial Affairs - during what the ICC referred to as a "transitional" period. This transition, CSA has said, should be stipulated at 12 months rather than two years "as that would be sufficient to ensure the successful sale of ICC media rights." It did not support a proposal that had the chairman of the ICC Board remain as chair of a member board, because it was "not in the best interest of the global ICC family as it will lead to real perceptions of conflict of interest."
SLC's response to Higgins' letter, stating that everything around the proposals was legally sound, was far more direct. It questioned a lack of Board-meeting protocol at various stages of the position paper going through the ICC. A reference in Higgins' letter for the need to "clarify specific areas after the Board had considered them" was taken by the SLC to imply "that you also are intrinsically involved" in the very process the board was objecting to and "consequently would not be in a position to view the matter impartially."
SLC's letter said that it was "quite telling" that Higgins had "continued to defend these purported Resolutions" despite having "conceded certain points raised by us". The Sri Lankan board asked how an email from Higgins to the Board of directors on January 28 made a reference to "the principles that were unanimously supported in respect of the ICC's future structure". The SLC letter said: "There had been absolutely no unanimity in the support of these proposals, a fact which is amply evident from what transpired at the meetings".
Little has, however, changed in the BCCI-CA-ECB triumvirate's belief that they would be able to work the numbers in their favour if and when the proposals are brought to vote.
The only major difference since the end of the last ICC Board meeting in Dubai is that the matter is not yet resolved despite the ICC's press release stating that "key principles" of the proposals had the "unanimous support" of members.
When the Dubai meeting ended, those in the Big Three camp were quick to point out, that they would get the eighth nation on board by the week's end, and another meeting would not be required. In the interim, however, the PCB first stated its opposition to the proposals following a meeting of its governing board. Then SLC confirmed its objections after a stakeholders meeting and, on Thursday, questioned the legality of the proposals itself. News of CSA's draft of a list of its objections became known earlier in the week and has been followed up by the letter to Isaac which became public on Friday.
There is still little clarity over which revamp proposals require two-thirds majority (7 out of 10 members) and which require three-fourths (8 out of 10), due to the fact that the proposals require constitutional amendments. The BCCI-CA-ECB triumvirate may still need to pull out one final, bargaining chip to win over one of the 'Small Three'.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. Additional reporting by Nagraj Gollapudi, Mohammad Isam and Andrew Fernando