'Cricket needs stronger player associations' - Marsh
Paul Marsh believes international cricket must be more accommodating to player associations if the sport is serious about eliminating the threat of corruption. Marsh was announced the new executive chairman of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) this week and takes charge of the organisation at a challenging time. Last month its departing chief executive Tim May lost his position on the ICC cricket committee resulting from a voting process FICA has questioned.
Since that vote, both the IPL and the Bangladesh Premier League have been plunged into corruption scandals and the sport's image has taken a serious hit. Marsh said it was unfortunate that FICA, which represents players associations in all Test-playing countries except India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, no longer had an official voice within the ICC at a time when administrators and players needed to build stronger links than ever.
"The thing that I find ironic about it is that right now more than ever, with everything that's going on in the game, it needs strong player associations," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "The game, if it's serious about ridding itself of these corrupt practices, should be embracing player associations. The reality is that there's nobody in the game that has a better relationship with the players. That's our role here. We have the opportunity to play a very strong leadership role around anti-corruption but those who are running the game have to embrace us in that space.
"FICA potentially has a very, very important role in educating the players and individual player associations already take on that role. But we can take a far greater role there. Lord Condon in his report identified that many years ago and if you talk to the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit they say the same thing, that player associations are important to this. Players are increasingly coming to us and reporting things they have seen or approaches that have been made to them."
The lack of player associations in India and Pakistan has limited FICA's ability to have a truly worldwide influence and that is not a situation Marsh expects will change any time soon. Instead, he believes the organisation must focus its attention on strengthening some of the smaller and less robust player associations that already come under its banner.
"To get associations in India and Pakistan has been on the FICA agenda for as long as I have been involved," Marsh said. "But the reality is you're not going to get a player association up unless the players want it and they're going to be prepared to fight for it. Unfortunately the Indian and Pakistan players don't want it, so we're wasting our time trying to get them to want something they don't want.
"What we have to do is focus on making sure that FICA and each of the player associations is as strong as they possibly can be, because not one of us as individual player associations has had anything given to us over the journey. We've had to fight for everything we get. We have got four very strong player associations at the moment and we need to focus on building up the other three members."
Marsh will take on the FICA position effectively as the group's figurehead and spokesperson, while also retaining his existing job as chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association. Ian Smith, who has served as legal director of England's Professional Cricketers' Association, will become FICA's chief operating officer.
Effectively the two men will share the responsibilities previously handled by May, who stepped down this week after 16 years in player advocacy. Marsh said other immediate priorities for FICA included making Twenty20 leagues more accountable for the non-payment of player wages, which he said had become "a significant issue". And he said that without an official voice at the ICC table, FICA would have to pursue other methods of making itself heard.
"Unless the attitude towards FICA changes we're going to become more and more vocal around these types of issues," Marsh said. "What we want is what's best for the game. We're not going to just sit back and take the lack of respect and take the refusal to hear our voice lying down. That is not going to happen. We will continue to be strong in voicing our views."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here