Edwards responds to 'Big Three' criticism
Wally Edwards, the Cricket Australia chairman and a key figure in the drafting of a proposal to centralise power in world cricket with India and England, has broken his usual silence to defend the plan in the face of heavy criticism from the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA).
Through FICA's chairman Paul Marsh, the world's cricketers have voiced their strong opposition to the proposed revamp of the ICC's structure, declaring that it would only serve to strengthen India, England and Australia while weakening the rest.
Commonly preferring to work the back channels of cricket administration before speaking publicly, Edwards said he felt compelled to respond to FICA's contention that the nations involved in drafting the proposal had defied their commitment to work in the best interests of the ICC by doing so.
"Traditionally, CA does not comment on ICC discussions it is about to have - we talk to other ICC nations across the table rather than via the media," Edwards said. "But we were today disappointed to see the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations question whether CA and others have met their fiduciary duties as ICC members.
"Setting aside the fact that we are yet to discuss and vote, CA's approach internationally is consistent with its approach at home where we have made significant strides improving the governance of Australian cricket. There will be a discussion in the next few days among the ICC's full member nations about possible changes to how the ICC works.
"CA's view going into that discussion is that we need to continue to promote international cricket competitions including the primacy of Test cricket, we need to improve global cricket leadership and we support that members should be working to promote the interest of the game as their priority."
Edwards is the first chairman of the three nations tabling the proposal to speak publicly about it. Neither N Srinivasan of the BCCI nor Giles Clarke of the ECB have been prepared to talk about the proposal or its implications, preferring to wait until the raft of changes are voted on by the ICC executive board at their next meeting on January 28 and 29.
FICA, which represents player associations in seven of the ICC's ten full member countries, had declared itself "extremely concerned" with the leaked proposal, which would place the ICC largely in the control of the so-called "Big Three" nations. Marsh said players had a real fear the proposal would leave countries outside the Big Three to "wither on the vine".
"There are a myriad of issues with this proposal," Marsh said. "First and foremost, as board directors of the ICC, the Chairmen of the BCCI, Cricket Australia and ECB owe fiduciary duties to the ICC that include putting the interests of the ICC ahead of those of their individual boards, a duty to remain loyal to the ICC and avoid conflicts of interests and to act in good faith to promote the success of the ICC. We seriously question whether all of these duties have been met.
"The proposals relating to scheduling are disturbing. The reassurance to the boards outside the 'Big Three' that they are guaranteed to earn more in the next rights cycle than they have in the current one ignores the fact they are almost certain to lose more money from a re-shaped Future Tours Programme (FTP) than they will gain from ICC distributions, when the 'Big Three' inevitably pick and choose who, when and where they will play.
"Of significance is the section that offers a guarantee from Cricket Australia and the ECB to play three Tests and five ODIs per cycle to each of the top eight members, yet there is no mention of any such guarantee from the BCCI. Each of the member countries, including Australia and England, rely heavily on Indian tours for sustainability of the game in their country. What chance do the majority of members have of survival if the BCCI decides not to tour their countries on at least a semi-regular basis?
"The result of this is that the gap between the 'Big Three' and the rest will get bigger and bigger, which will undermine the competitiveness of future ICC events and therefore the value of rights in future cycles. This will affect everyone and it cannot possibly be in the interests of international cricket nor of the health and sustainability of the world game of which the ICC is supposed to be the custodian."
Boards of ICC members outside the Big Three have expressed differing views on the proposal, with Cricket South Africa arguing the idea is "fundamentally flawed" and "in breach of the ICC constitution", while New Zealand Cricket said it was wrong to jump to the conclusion that the proposal would be bad for cricket. However, FICA has raised concerns about the potential increased financial strain that could affect countries already struggling to make money from the game.
"We also have significant concern with the notion that distributions from ICC events should be based on commercial contribution," Marsh said. "The result of this will be the countries that need ICC income most will receive the least, whilst the 'Big Three' will get the lion's share even though they are already financially healthy because of the value of the rights to their bilateral series.
"The role of ICC events should be to assist in levelling the financial playing field by distributing the proceeds from these events fairly, rather than further widening the gap between the rich and poor. Whilst these are an entirely foreseeable commercial outcomes, for the cricket fan the greater concern is the increasing gulf in quality between the 'Big Three' and the rest. The essence of sport is competition and those in control of the ICC should be doing all they can to promote and provide a level playing field. This proposal will achieve the complete opposite.
"Ironically the proposal espouses the principal of meritocracy. The linking of immunity from Test relegation for BCCI, ECB and CA to an argument that this is necessary 'solely to protect ICC income' is plainly wrong, given the fact no Test-based ICC events feature in the forward thinking and therefore all revenues generated from Test cricket are kept by the boards hosting the respective series."
Daniel Brettig and Brydon Coverdale are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo