England news July 28, 2015

Olympic ideal could prove uncomfortable for Clarke

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

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