Martin Williamson
Executive editor, ESPNcricinfo, and managing editor, ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

The future's bright

The new ICC funding regulations should have a positive impact on the game's Associates and Affiliates

Martin Williamson

June 27, 2008

Comments: 3 | Text size: A | A


Canada's Ashish Bagai and Ireland's Trent Johnston pose with the Intercontinental Cup trophy before the start of the 2007 final. The tournament has provided the leading Associates with valuable exposure to four-day cricket © ICC
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Next week's ICC annual get-together promises to have more than its fair share of politicking, posturing and controversy. But, unless there is a major about-turn, it should also be a watershed for the Associates and Affiliates.

In 2009, income from the ICC's six-year media deal with ESPN-Star, worth over US$1 billion, kicks in, and while the game's big boys will still keep the lion's share, the rest will see substantial increases in their incomes.

Although the ICC draws considerable flak on many fronts, it is quietly committed to promoting the game in as many countries as possible, and it does that by means of a myriad of competitions and initiatives. Most do not warrant much media attention, but they are there and they work.

Until now, the gripe of the smaller countries, and especially those bubbling just underneath the top flight, has been about the inequality of the way in which the game is financed. That was never more apparent than when it came to earnings from last year's World Cup.

Ireland got a flat fee of US$125,000 a year for four years for taking part, and on top of that they received another $50,000 for reaching the Super Eights. However, because of the extra costs involved in their progression, not least because their players are not professional cricketers and their absences from their full-time jobs had to be underwritten, Ireland's success actually left the board out of pocket.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, turned up, tied with Ireland and never threatened to progress after being thumped by Pakistan and West Indies. For those three matches, Zimbabwe Cricket received US$11 million, their share of the pot as a Full Member.

The top six Associates receive no more than US$500,000 a year - some substantially less - to fund their entire operations. Out of that they have to pay all their cricketing and administration costs. Only those with a low cost of living, such as Kenya, can hope to maintain a professional squad on that kind of money.

The gulf between the haves and have-nots is further widened by the limited sums Associates can earn from sponsorship and media contracts. Zimbabwe can exploit home series against, say, India to carve out lucrative TV deals worth millions, and on the back of that, attract shirt- and other corporate sponsorship. As highlighted by Scotland's failure to secure any TV deal for their forthcoming ODI against England, the Associates struggle to get such income streams.

The new deals will provide a substantial increase for Associates, especially for the countries who are pressing for space at the top table. Until now the share has been roughly equal, rewarding Netherlands and Kenya on par with Thailand and Fiji. The new system will see more demarcation between the top Associates and the rest.

The leading ten could earn as much as US$1.5 million a year from 2009. There will then be an onus on them to professionalise their administrations, but several of them are already well down that route. They will also be more accountable - the ICC does not want a repeat of the mess that came following a spike in Kenya's funding earlier in the decade.

 
 
So much of putting players on full-time retainers depends on how many fixtures we can commandWarren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive
 

The second-string Associates will also get more - around US$160,000 as a base figure - but then again the demands on them are less. Even Affiliates will receive US$15,000, with the opportunity for more should they make a good enough case. There will also be more cash in the pot for participating and hosting competitions.

There have never been more opportunities for development outside the Full Member countries, but there remain some nagging worries.

The main one is how to bridge the gap between semi and full-blown professionalism. Almost all the Associates rely on dedicated amateurs, both on and off the field. As the number of ICC competitions has increased - and they have to be welcomed - the pressure has begun to tell. Scotland and Ireland particularly have already found players cannot meet all their commitments, and even the increased income will not allow them to employ a full-time squad.

"So much of putting players on full-time retainers depends on how many fixtures we can command," Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, said. "At the moment, all we can promise the squad in 2009 is a World Cup qualifying campaign, eight FP Trophy matches, an England game, and probably some Intercontinental Cup matches. Of course, we hope to have more, but can't be sure at the moment.

"Our top players are already plying their trade in county cricket, while others have full-time jobs which they may not wish to give up. The actual number of players that the coach will want to put on a full-time contract, or else the number that even want to have one, may not be that many."

The other quandary is how to get them fixtures. Kenya, widely regarded as the leading Associate, have found it almost impossible to get Full Member countries to visit or host them. As a result they invariably play other Associates. Good for the win-loss ratio, not so clever in providing the kind of experience that no amount of money can buy.

These issues will need to be addressed, but for now the future has never looked so promising beyond the Test world.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by nk83 on (June 28, 2008, 21:12 GMT)

Ok here's an idea- Like the FTP makes in mandatory for all full members to tour each other once every six years, something similar should be done so that full members also give associates some games. Something like every full member has to play the ODI associates in their regions- England gives games to Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands even if just one, South Africa gives games to Kenya, West Indies gives some games to Bermuda and Canada and so on. Also mandatory is that every full member plays at least 2 ODI associates per year.

That doesn't really cramp up the international calendar as the full members can just give the associates a game when they come by their region for other full member tours and isn't that big of a burden for the full members. It effectively also guarantees the associates some games against full members while they still play each other.

Posted by ashwin_547 on (June 27, 2008, 17:28 GMT)

Continuing on the last post... Namibia and occassionally Zimbabwe play in South Africa's domestic competitions, more countries - Zambie, etc should be invited to play. Afganisthan, Nepal, Myanmar should also be allotted positions in the Domestic competitions in the Sub Continent - and same for Australia and New Zealand - Fiji, Papua New Guinea and so much more. This would do so much in helping bridge that gap and hence we could see cricket develop and players get better. Its not the only way but the best and most effective in the long term.

Posted by ashwin_547 on (June 27, 2008, 17:26 GMT)

Why don't teams who tour South Africa or Zimbabwe pass by Kenya (and maybe even Uganda can participate) and Even Namibia? It will give them invaluable experience, draw big crowds and it would benefit them a lot. There are lots of meaningless tours of big countries to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh when Kenya is clearly a notch above them. There could be more tours or atleat ' A' team tours to these Kenya or Namibia. Also When touring England I think every team must play Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland, it should be mandatory, it would provide them with invaluable experience. Also I think that Denmark, Netherlands (Ireland and Scotland do) should play in the English County System (Any Division). Professionalizing them and then making them play with full time professionals would help improve them as they now have access to the best and can challenge some of the best. Same for Canada and other Countries in the continents, they can play in the West Indian domestic system, same for South Africa.

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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