The Woolf review

ICC must address conflicts of interest - Woolf report

Daniel Brettig

February 2, 2012

Comments: 7 | Text size: A | A

Woolf report recommendations on ethics and conflict of interest

  • A culture should be established where all potential conflicts of interest are declared, assessed and addressed. Where a Director of the ICC has a personal conflict of interest from which they stand to benefit, they should be excluded from decision-making on matters that may be affected by that conflict.
  • ICC Directors should neither seek to place undue influence on other Members, nor allow themselves to be influenced inappropriately by other Members to support the interests of individual Members.
  • Any side agreements between Members that may affect the interests of the ICC and global cricket should be disclosed so that there is due transparency and their effects are understood.
  • Government interference is inappropriate and is not acceptable. A level of government patronage and support of cricket is permissible.
  • There should be clear and enforced limits on the value of Gifts and Hospitality (individually and aggregate) that ICC Directors and staff can give or receive. It should be mandatory to log all gifts and hospitality that are given or received.

Conflicts of interest at the ICC board level must, in the words of the Woolf Report, be "declared, assessed and addressed" to end years of decision-making that have been affected by back-room dealings and little transparency.

The report devotes considerable time to the matter of ethics, painting a grim picture of the ICC board's ethical practices and knowledge of how best to conduct its business. Conflicts abound, whether they be those inherent in representing the ICC and the board member's own country at the same time, or ones related to commercial links or dealings between nations.

"Some of those interviewed complained of a lack of openness and transparent behaviour where conflicts of interest, particularly at director level, could occur. They were left in doubt as to whether Member Boards' interests were promoted over the ICC's interests," the report said. "Due to the lack of disclosure, remarkably, no person interviewed could recall, for example, a situation where a conflict of interest was disclosed and the Director concerned excused himself and abstained from voting on a particular issue.

"Given that conflicts of interest are likely to arise from time to time in an organisation such as the ICC, this may indicate that the underlying requirements in this and other areas have not been made sufficiently clear, or are not sufficiently understood or observed."

Vast differences in financial strength between Full Members, from India at the top to Zimbabwe at the bottom, have created an unequal balance of power. The matter of financial loans between Member nations came up in the report as a frequent matter of conjecture among board members.

"Some of those interviewed believe that there are occasions when those with greater financial leverage are able to use their financial power to influence voting at the ICC Board, for example, through the offer of a future tour that would bring additional revenue to the host Member," the report said.

"The disparity of the financial positions of Members creates an environment in which it is possible that one Member may approach another Member for financial support or a loan. Such transactions could potentially create (or be perceived to create) a conflict of interest and could jeopardise the independence of Members. There is currently no requirement for such financial arrangements to be disclosed to the ICC and therefore the ICC would not necessarily be aware if loans were being made between Members and any consequent impairment of independence.

"Concerns were expressed that the way a Director voted may have been influenced by factors beyond the specific issue in hand in order to obtain favourable treatment for another project."

The matter of gifts and inducements is addressed, with the ICC asked to refrain from providing "lavish gifts, hospitality or entertainment to members". At the same time, the game's governing body should "undertake regular risk assessments to identify those commercial arrangements and individuals that are most likely to attract attempts by third parties to inappropriately influence the ICC's decision making".

Government interference in cricket decisions is also outlined as a problem, though the report states that "governments taking an interest in the development of cricket and providing support and patronage to Member Boards may be acceptable or even desirable. It is a matter of achieving an appropriate balance between support and interference. It is important for the credibility of such safeguards that once defined, they are enforced rigorously and consistently."

In order to rid the ICC board of these conflicts and compromises, the report calls for the declaration of all potential conflicts of interest, with any board directors standing to benefit personally from a board decision asked to be excluded from decisions related to those matters.

The ICC has an existing code of ethics, which the report says should be reinforced and applied to every ICC office bearer, as well as commercial partners and intermediaries such as commercial agents. The report recommends that sanctions be drawn up for violations of the code, and the place of the ethics board be elevated to monitor governance and commercial practices at each level of the ICC.

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Smithie on (February 4, 2012, 16:12 GMT)

Clearly Srinivasan has no problem in operating conflict of interest situations viz the Sahara Pune/CSK/BCCI blow up that has just hit the press. Imagine how he would operate in an ICC Future Tours program meeting if Test Schedules were threatened IPL requirements! Woolfe is spot on regarding rooting out conflicts of interest in the ICC. Fingers crossed the cricket community is strong enough to make it happen.

Posted by correctcall on (February 3, 2012, 14:24 GMT)

@jaanson - surely what cricket needs is an overall view for the long term interests of cricket- not nationalistic parochialism. ( as evidenced by your contribution).There is great competition from many sports for the eyeballs, bums on seats and sponsorship monies. This report, if implemented fully, gives cricket a fighting chance.

Posted by maddy20 on (February 3, 2012, 14:24 GMT)

I was reading the financial suggestions of the report and to be honest, it can easily make it to the wit and satire section of cricinfo! Distribute profits easily? Its like saying Microsoft should "distribute 75% of profits equally to all its share holders,regardless of the amount of shares they have purchased". No business model , even that of a sport works that way. Its hilarious at best!

Posted by jaanson on (February 2, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

yes a public response should be there but why only these gents. what about the icc administration being full of south africans and what about australian firms getting icc contracts when both malcolms [gray and speed]were at the helm?

Posted by Rahulbose on (February 2, 2012, 19:28 GMT)

Just like the teams are a collection of the best cricket players. ICC board is a collection of the most machiavellian characters from all cricket playing nations. No amount of process changes or reviews can cure this body of its ills.

Posted by chicoguapo on (February 2, 2012, 16:59 GMT)

It would be even more interesting if WICB take a read at this report....he is saying...not that we have dictatorship of cricket but that we look for a balance between board control and government...because if we had that balance, Wesi Indiesa cricket wouldnt be where it is now....Imagine an organization that has an unfair elections..or ilegitimate elections..looking at its rule book a cout ordered that government take control until they have have an election according to their rule book....and the WICB and the ICC, are against that..how can you be against fairness? against following your laws? if you didnot break the rules, government wouldnt have had to intervene....The reamins that cricket"s governing body lacks profesionalism..and unless they get rid of these people with double interest as stated in the report, there would never be any clear way foward....how can you be president of the international body and represent your country at the same time? or own a sponsorship comapny?

Posted by correctcall on (February 2, 2012, 14:21 GMT)

It would be very interesting to have a public response on these points from Messrs Pawar, Srinivasan, Bindra and Chingoka. The points raised are key to the long term health of the game we all love. Cricket journalist worldwide should pursue answers from these gentlemen with both rigour and vigour - over to you Sambit Bal et al.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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