August 15, 2003

More professionalism should raise standards - McSweeney

Cricket Wellington chief executive Ervin McSweeney is hopeful last season's players' strike will lead to a significant improvement in standards in New Zealand's first-class game.

McSweeney, the former international and a member of New Zealand Cricket's negotiating panel with the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association, also hoped that the strike would be seen as a "necessary growing pain."

He said in Cricket Wellington's annual report that 12 months ago the notion of a players' strike would have been inconceivable but the serious negotiations through the latter half of 2002 had all the dramatics of a major dispute.

"There is no doubt such an overt display cast a dark shadow over preparations for the international and domestic cricket season. It is hoped that the benefits that flow in the future will make this period seem like a necessary growing pain.

"Undoubtedly players will be better placed financially but equally significant are the enhanced opportunities presented to develop competence, skills, and overall quality as professional cricket players. Also significant is the improvement in the understanding of respective expectations and obligations of players and administrators."

While the international game and New Zealand's success in it had a trickle down effect, the World Cup tournament would be remembered for the "unfulfilled expectation for cricket in New Zealand," McSweeney said.

"The Black Caps never got into a consistent winning pattern and the success achieved was based around outstanding individual performances (of Stephen Fleming and Shane Bond in particular)," he said.

Wellington had managed, despite the lack of leverage from the reduced international programme last season, to achieve a surplus of $27,000.

"During these past 12 months we have expected to post a deficit as many normal revenue streams were impossible to activate and in fact the 'bad press' [strike] exacerbated this situation early in the season. As a consequence a restrictive line on expenditure was implemented and in the final wash-up a small operating surplus was achieved to our collective relief," McSweeney said.

The annual report also showed how much the funding of Wellington cricket has changed over the last five years. In 1999-00, nothing was provided for development programmes. Last season $230,000 was made available through New Zealand Cricket.

The fact that Associations have become so reliant on the national body is obvious from sponsorships. Where Wellington got $230,000 from State and Dominion Breweries sponsorship then, that income was no longer available. Representative player payments had increased from $143,000 and were now worth $342,000.

International match payments were worth $95,000 five years ago, but last year they resulted in only $54,000, however that was an improvement on the $39,000 of the previous summer. Under the heading of other grants, the amount had increased from $313,000 in 1999-00 to $450,000 last summer.

NZC's agreement to a four-year base commitment level to coincide with their World Cup funding cycles had been a significant improvement as it gave certainty to about 50% of Cricket Wellington's revenue plan.

The directors of Cricket Wellington said in the report: "Unfortunately, there is a disappointing consequence of this otherwise very pleasing outcome. The penalties imposed on NZC's (and other countries) share of World Cup revenues, and the greatly increased player payment agreements have reduced the level of commitments that NZC indicated it would make to Associations for representative programme costs and administration.

"Whilst we welcome the higher levels of commitment to the development of the game and to player reumuneration it has result in Cricket Wellington facing a substantial shortfall in funding the representative programme costs. This is the subject of ongoing discussions with NZC."

Cricket Wellington's annual meeting will be held on September 3.