England news July 28, 2015

Olympic ideal could prove uncomfortable for Clarke

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Giles Clarke, pictured with Cricket Ireland chairman Ross McCollum, has opposed English cricket's involvement in the Olympics © Peter Della Penna

Giles Clarke's position as president of the ECB could become untenable if the board honours its commitment to reconsider opposition to cricket's involvement in the Olympics.

The ECB has, in the past, shown no enthusiasm for cricket's involvement in the Games. But the new chairman and chief executive, Colin Graves and Tom Harrison, gave an indication to the MCC's World Cricket Committee (WCC) that they were open to a "rethink" of the board's attitude.

That could prove awkward for Clarke. He has been a staunch opponent of the England men's team competing in the Olympics but, as the ECB's representative at the ICC, would be expected to argue the case for cricket taking part if the board supported the MCC's view that such a scenario would be beneficial to the world game.

Concerned that the sport is in danger of contracting around the world, the WCC urged "all governing bodies around the world to get behind a bid" to make cricket an Olympic sport. This, the committee believes, would "expose the game positively to new markets" and enable many developing cricket nations to benefit from the government funding that is linked to Olympic involvement.

Whether Clarke could commit to such a policy - or live with the loss of face such a u-turn might represent - remains unclear.

But there can be no doubting his uncompromising attitude towards the issue in the past. Interviewed as part of the Death of a Gentleman documentary - a film which examines and exposes the lack of transparency and accountability in the administration of international cricket, which had its premiere in London on Monday night - Clarke dismissed the idea of England's involvement in the Olympics as "impossible" and "a complete non-starter".

"It's a tournament too far," he said. "We don't have the space in our calendar. The Olympics takes place during the English season. It's impossible for us to set aside time for it. It would have an enormous economic impact on the game in this country. It's a complete non-starter. We're not going to be playing Olympic cricket for men."

An ECB spokesman suggested such talk was premature and that, at present, the policy towards the Olympics had not altered.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on August 1, 2015, 4:14 GMT

    @Sirviv1973: It's not just football that does not send its big stars to the Olympics. Baseball is an Olympic sport and none of the top players take part. The reason is exactly the same as Clarke gave for England cricket- the Olympics coincides with the American baseball season and the players cannot be released from their obligations to their clubs.

    However, cricket is in a better position than baseball in that most of the England side are on central contracts. They play very little county cricket anyway, so it would just be a question of rearranging the touring schedule. I'm sure the Olympic money would cover a lot of the lost revenue.

    I think Clarke has got it wrong and Olympic participation would do a lot for the game around the world.

  • Dean on July 30, 2015, 8:36 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, I don't think that is a solution at all, if you look at it from the IOC's point of view what would be the point of including a sport like cricket if you put restrictions on who can be selected & you end up having an event devoid of the games biggest stars? If you look at all the other team sports the best players are available to appear the only exception is Men's Football. The age restrictions on Men's football is tolerated because Football is the most widely played game in the world & because of that it's the only sport the IOC will tolerate having an age limit for.

  • ian on July 29, 2015, 17:39 GMT

    There is a very simple solution to this. It need not impact on the English season more than marginally if there is an age restriction placed on the age of the competitors. I would suggest that should be being under twenty on January 1 of the Olympic year in question. T20 is very much a young persons' game and the exposure to a potentially vast Olympic audience would be genuine test of the temperament of the young players concerned. Meanwhile, Test and county matches can carry on as ever.. What say you, Mr Clarke? Or is it really about Sky coverage, filling coffers and generally having a number of good lunches?

  • Dummy4 on July 29, 2015, 17:09 GMT

    All these comments bemoaning the weakening of the England team at the time.... The answer is simple: England doesn't have to go to the Olympics!!!! The problem is England is currently vetoing it so no one else is allowed to go either. THAT is the issue.

  • Dummy4 on July 29, 2015, 15:29 GMT

    Michael Holding says that it's wrong for entities to hijack the game for their own interests. How does that level with him working for Sky?

    "This, the committee believes, would "expose the game positively to new markets" and enable many developing cricket nations to benefit from the government funding that is linked to Olympic involvement."

    Olympic involvement will bring forth taxpayers cash to go to cricketing nations. In a time where an awful lot of people are squeezed financially, it is idiotic for taxpayers money to go into a commercially lucrative sport that already receives income from these same taxpayers (TV subs, ticket sales etc). So George, instead of griping at Giles, why not an article detailing this government funding, where it comes from, who decides it etc?

  • John on July 29, 2015, 12:18 GMT

    Handball has been in the Olympics since 1972. It has never spread outside its original base in Continental Europe. I don't see why it would be any different for cricket - as far as I can see, governments will invest in a sport if they see the prospects of a medal - in cricket, that means the established countries.

  • Dean on July 29, 2015, 8:25 GMT

    Although I detest Giles Clarke, if the best players had to be released for the Olympics it does look like an unworkable situation for the ECB. Players would need to be released for around 4 wks at the height of the Eng summer meaning they would miss 2-3 test matches. The Tests would still have to be played due to contractual obligations meaning Eng would need to field a weakened team. Of the current squad, Root, Buttler,Stokes, Rashid,Finn & Wood would all be in the T20 squad the likes of Moen & Bairstow might be as well. There's also the touring team, who would also likely be decimated with withdrawals and you would be playing a test series with both teams at half strength which would devalue test cricket & also make it difficult to put bums on seats.

  • Dean on July 29, 2015, 8:05 GMT

    I think it's all very well to say an Olympic tournament could be played without Eng or Ind players but surely a competition without the best players in the world will be devalued? For those players that are there how seriously are they going to take it? where is it going to fit on their list of priorities given the amount of cricket which is currently played. If you have a situation where an Olympic Tournament has the 12 best teams with the best players available & has as much significance as the WC then I would love to see it in included, somehow I don't see this being the case.

  • Ibrahim on July 29, 2015, 6:00 GMT

    Cricket has to be a part of Olympics without which the game cannot grow. Its been decades since the game is been played, But we still have just 9 test playing nations which is not a good sign and doesn't signify that the game is expanding geographically. It might follow baseball and die some day

  • Saurabh on July 29, 2015, 5:25 GMT

    I think there's nothing wrong if the rest of the world were there at the Olympics. The Big3 can sit themselves out if they feel they don't need it - I personally feel they don't. But for many associate nations and affiliates the Olympics presents a chance to propel the game into the front row of popularity in their own countries. The ICC need to fix their policy on this; they need to be more responsive to the needs of the countries where cricket isn't a major sport.

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