March 13, 2016

Another review, another rejection expected

Four governance reviews of West Indies cricket have not been acted upon, because the board does not want change

PJ Patterson, the former prime minister of Jamaica, recommended a two-tier system of governance - a council and an executive arm - in his 2007 report © AFP

The West Indies Cricket Board confirmed at its annual general meeting in Jamaica last weekend that its name is to be changed to Cricket West Indies.

It was a retitling first promoted by the comprehensive Patterson Report on the board's governance and structure in 2007, prepared by a committee headed by the former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson. Like other key points, it has remained dormant in the nine years since, while in the interim, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have made the switch.

Patterson explained at the time that the new name would reflect the difference in the WICB's governance structure as recommended by his panel. That "difference" is yet to be realised, in spite of the committee's caveats that "change must be effected urgently" and that "the status quo is not an option".

Under pressure from Caribbean governments (CARICOM), who have insisted on the implementation of the main item of the review committee, presented last November, the latest of four of its kind, the WICB tackled the subject of transformation at its Jamaica meeting. Two statements were issued afterwards, however, that blurred the question as to whether or not the board intends to follow the lead of Australia and New Zealand in meaningfully reorganising itself.

One came from the shareholder boards. The six - Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad & Tobago and Windward Islands - strongly supported the WICB's earlier rejection of the proposals of CARICOM's independent panel. Established jointly by CARICOM and the WICB under the principal of the University of the West Indies, Barbados campus, Dr Eudine Barriteau, that panel included the president of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Dennis Byron, and that of the Caribbean Development Bank, Warren Smith, and former West Indies vice-captain Deryck Murray.

History indicates that the WICB directors will once more dig their heels in as they have done over the years. They have repeatedly rejected submissions from the various reports reviewing the board's governance and structure

Its main proposal was that the board should be immediately dissolved and that its current members resign while a differently constituted alternative was assembled. It was a pill too bitter to swallow. WICB president Dave Cameron, who has risen to the top of the WICB after 14 years in the directorate in one position or another, used forthright language to accuse the report of making "findings and recommendations… not supported by the facts". It was, he said, "wrong to blame governance of the WICB for the team's performances on the field".

At the same time, Cameron announced the formation of a panel of "experts" to assess the proposals not implemented from the earlier reports on governance. It is to be led by Don Wehby, a Jamaican business executive, now a government senator and former cabinet minister. He and two others, Clifford Reis of Guyana and Ricky Skerritt, an earlier West Indies team manager, are non-voting WICB directors; three non-aligned members are to be added.

Cameron said the panel would focus primarily on the recommendations of committees under Trinidad & Tobago High Court judge Anthony Lucky in 2004, Patterson in 2007, and St Kitts-Nevis Queen's Counsel Charles Wilkin in 2012, all of whose findings were shelved. The panel's remit is to examine "if there is an opportunity to bring anything back to the territorial boards and the WICB for adoption by the shareholders".

"Once that process is complete, a change-management expert will be brought in to complete the process for a smooth transition," Cameron added.

It sounded very much as if Wehby's group is expected to endorse the earlier proposals from Patterson and Wilkin and present them to be stamped by the member boards and the WICB itself. If so, they will find it a very hard sell.

History indicates that the WICB directors will once more dig their heels in as they have done over the years. They have repeatedly rejected submissions from the various reports reviewing the board's governance and structure. The latest rebuff has so frustrated CARICOM that the two bodies are no longer on speaking terms.

What does the West Indies board hope to achieve from yet another examination of the various reviews down the years? © WICB Media/Brooks LaTouche Photography Ltd

Patterson and Wilkin echoed each other's propositions almost word for word, and Barriteau's stipulation was that the WICB be immediately dissolved.

Patterson's plan was for a two-tier system - a Cricket West Indies Council and a Cricket West Indies Board. The council, drawn from "a wide range of stakeholders", 23 was the suggested number, would meet once a year "to review the state of West Indies cricket". The board would be the executive arm of Cricket West Indies to act within the "broad outlines" settled by the council.

Wilkin's group projected a board reduced to 15, comprising president, vice-president, representatives of the territorial boards cut from two to one each, six directors elected from outside the board, and the chief executive officer as an ex-officio director.

Four years after handing his report to the WICB, Patterson charged that its main point for restructuring was ignored "because it would have resulted in some degree of openness which does not exist in the present situation".

"I wasted a year after retirement [preparing the report]," he lamented.

Both he and Wilkin concluded that the directors were hostile to the suggested changes due to their intention to protect their positions on the board.

In the circumstances, it is unrealistic to believe that WICB directors will suddenly do a complete u-turn and agree to a restructuring of the organisation, whatever Wehby's committee finds pertinent in reports that have gathered dust for years, while West Indies cricket has increasingly staggered in the international game that it once dominated through the 1980s.

Hope still lingers that the board might finally be moved by the reality that is if it does not accept the need for reform, the revival that has been elusive for two decades will remain that way.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for over 50 years

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