Irish replaces Marsh as head of FICA
Tony Irish, the head of the South African Cricketers' Association, will become the major voice for players around the world after being named as Paul Marsh's replacement at the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA).
Marsh announced earlier this month that he was stepping down as chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association to take charge of the AFL Players Association, and the move had flow-on implications for FICA. After the departure of Tim May last year, Marsh was named as FICA's new executive chairman and his exit from cricket left the organisation searching for a new figurehead.
Irish was elected at FICA's annual general meeting in Melbourne and, like Marsh, will take on the role alongside his duties with his country's player association. As chief executive of the SACA, Irish has formed a solid working relationship with Cricket South Africa, and he hopes to bring similarly cordial relations to FICA's dealings with the newly-restructured ICC.
"I think that's the real challenge of players' associations. You always get more done by co-operation than you do by fighting," Irish said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo. "Whilst we feel there's certain fundamentals that we need to stand up for, if you can do that in a way that is cooperative you're always going to get more done. That's what we're hoping our relationship with the ICC is going to be - cooperative."
The loss of an important FICA voice on the ICC's cricket committee is an issue Irish would like to address, after former FICA chief Tim May lost his spot last year.
"I think the level of engagement that we have with the ICC is something that we can improve, in particular at the CEC [Chief Executives' Committee] level," he said. "We feel that the players are the guys that get on the field and they have the most to offer when it comes to cricket issues, playing issues.
"And yet we lost the person who really used to coordinate the view of the current players on the cricket committee, and that's something we need to try and address. Then there's still all the day-to-day operational stuff that we've got to do, which is done with ICC management, and we're hopeful that will carry on."
Marsh said Irish was a strong appointment for FICA as world cricket entered a new era with the restructuring of the ICC that occurred at its meetings in Melbourne this week.
"We're delighted to have someone of Tony Irish's calibre, experience and expertise to assume the role of executive chairman," Marsh said. "Tony has been a tremendous advocate for players for many years at SACA and with FICA. He is a strong and respected leader who will ensure our member associations and their players continue to be passionately represented.
"We've seen in recent days significant changes at ICC level, which represent a new era in terms of the administration and leadership of world cricket. FICA's position on this is well known. Our strong preference was for the controversy involving Mr Srinivasan in India to be resolved before the ICC made a decision on the chairmanship. While it's disappointing that this did not occur, we can't let this distract FICA from its responsibility of helping shape cricket's future."
Irish said he looked forward to taking over from Marsh, who he described as "a voice of clarity" over his decade-plus involvement in player advocacy.
"His forthright and steadfast approach has ensured players worldwide have been strongly supported and well informed," Irish said. "We thank him sincerely for his contribution and wish him the very best in his future endeavours. The cricket landscape is an evolving one, with challenges and opportunities on many fronts. Now, more than ever, it is critical that the voice of the players is heard. FICA is committed to contributing effectively to the game."
Other changes at the FICA meeting included the endorsement of a player advisory group, which was set to bring together a panel of active cricketers from around the world to provide input and direction to FICA and to provide "a direct line from the playing field to the boardroom". The make-up of the player advisory group will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale