ICC could return to Lord's
The International Cricket Council will consider the feasibility of relocating its headquarters from Dubai to its former base at Lord's, following a proposal raised by the BCCI president, Shashank Manohar, during their executive board meeting in October.
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, told Cricinfo that the notion had been raised in an informal capacity during budget discussions for the 2010 financial year, while the board president, David Morgan, confirmed that he would be drawing together a discussion document to examine the options.
Speculation about the board's future in Dubai has been rife in recent weeks, with the stagnation of the region's previously booming economy undermining the tax benefits that the ICC has enjoyed since its move from Lord's in 2005. According to a report in Dawn newspaper, a budget deficit of US$230,000 has been projected for the next financial year.
"At the last meeting in October we were talking about our budgets for the next year, and it was felt that we shouldn't be ingrained into thinking that the costs that we incur in Dubai are fine," Lorgat told Cricinfo. "As an aside, it was suggested that maybe we should find out if it is the same costs or cheaper to move back to London.
"This was not an item on the agenda. It was not considered officially, and it has perhaps since got more legs than it deserved, but the fact of the matter is that David and I, together with a few others, will put together a brief report on whether it is something worth considering or not."
"The board at its last meeting decided that they would like to move back to Lord's from Dubai," Morgan told Cricinfo. "I took the initiative by saying that the chief executive and I would carry out a feasibility study. It's all very well to decide it would be nice to move back to Lord's or relocate to place X or Y, but there will be cost implications. What I've done is put together a small, specialist team. We've not yet met, but a great deal of the preparatory work is under way. We'll carry out a feasibility study with the necessary due diligence."
A return to London would, however, be dependent on the ability and willingness of the British government to grant visas to the Zimbabwe delegation, specifically the president of ZC, Peter Chingoka, and the managing director, Ozias Bvute, who are currently on an EU blacklist.
"Unless we can guarantee visas it is unlikely to be London," said Lorgat, "because our members would specifically request that wherever we host the annual conference, all members can attend." An ECB spokesman told Cricinfo that all discussions were entirely a matter for the ICC, but added that he had "no knowledge" of an alleged proposal from Giles Clarke, in which it is believed he has put Mumbai forward as an alternative base.
"The board talked only about London and Lord's, but when one opens the box, all sorts of things can come out as a result," said Morgan. "The brief that I have is to explore the possibilities of returning to Lord's."
The chief executive of MCC, Keith Bradshaw, told Cricinfo that no official talks had been held between Lord's and the ICC as yet, but nevertheless welcomed the possibility of a return, adding that MCC would be willing to discuss the incorporation of the governing body into its £400million redevelopment plans. The grand ambition of the old ground, coupled with the fears for the future of Dubai as a financial powerhouse, make the proposals all the more alluring.
"I don't know if Dubai's problems are in the minds of people, but if you think about it quite logically, the whole world is in financial difficulty," added Lorgat. "In my view, Dubai has been overheating for a long while, so what we have now is probably a more realistic position.
"What Dubai is facing currently is very similar to what a lot of other countries have faced, but it has encouraged us to look more carefully at our budgets and costs. In the good times you need to plan for when you have to be more circumspect, such as in the current environment."
Aside from Dubai's tax exemption, which accounts for 30-40% of the board's income, its other major benefit as a base is the central location it provides, with fast and frequent flights to most of the game's major nations. Set against that, however, is the lack of a cricket culture in the Emirate itself, which has led to accusations that the board is out of touch with the sport it governs.
"Dubai is convenient in terms of location, but obviously it is not a Test nation which is something that could be dragging on the minds of some members," said Lorgat. "But there is a misconception that the location of ICC determines its costs. No matter where the ICC is located, more than two-thirds of its costs are possessional. We look after cricket, umpires, referees, and no matter where you are, those costs will be the same."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo