ICC news January 17, 2014

FTP may become bilateral arrangement

The nature of the ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP), the schedule for top-level international cricket, is set to undergo a sweeping change if proposals from a Financial & Commercial Affairs "working group position paper" are approved. The proposals seek, among other things, to scrap the central FTP agreements between the ICC and its members and replace it with bilateral agreements between member nations.

The draft of the proposals, made available to member nations following a special Board meeting on January 9 in Dubai, seeks to detach the ICC from being involved in scheduling series between member nations. The alternative being recommended is a "series of contractually binding bi-lateral agreements with other full members they wish to play against." The proposal also specifies that "it is up to the full member to enter into as many or as few FTP agreements as they wish." It states that no member should be "forced to play" against another unless bilaterally agreed, or forced to host uneconomic tours with the "content and timing" of all tours being agreed to bilaterally.

It could, if and when it is approved, lead to a radical change in how, and how often, the ICC's Full Members engage with each other.

The reason the FTP is to be removed from central ICC control, according to the position paper, is because "the draft FTP, as it stands, contains a large number of unviable tours."

The document, made available to ESPNcricinfo, recommends the restructuring of the ICC's administration and finances but also centralizes power in the hands of three member boards: Cricket Australia, the BCCI and the ECB. The three boards occupy key positions in the Finance and Commercial Affairs committee and, under the new ICC funding model being proposed, stand to be the top three beneficiaries of revenue distribution.

Other than distribution of revenues from ICC events, the new financial model also proposes the creation and relocation of a new commercial arm of the ICC - called the ICC Business Co (IBC) - with the phasing out of its existing arm, the IDI.

The draft states that the IBC is to be established "immediately" so that it can take charge of the selling a new cycle of ICC media and sponsorship rights for 2015-2023. The document says the incorporation of the IBC has to be completed before the ICC's April Board meeting to ensure "timely launch" of the 2015-2023 media rights tender. The timing of the new ICC financial model coincides with that of the reworked FTP. The draft says the "initial FTP agreements will be entered into at the same time as the introduction of the new ICC financial model in 2014."

Cricket Australia, the ECB and the BCCI it is stated, are "committing" to enter into FTP agreements from 2015 to 2023.

The FTP agreements will be legally binding between members barring a few conditions: force majeure events (natural disasters), material breach by the other party, if the touring team's broadcaster are in legal dispute with the home board's primary media rights holder and no changes in playing conditions unless agreed.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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