Inextricably bound: Windies cricket and Caribbean economies

An open door

Vaneisa Baksh

April 30, 2007

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Over US$300 million alone was invested in stadia for the 2007 World Cup © Andrew Miller
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I can think of no better time in the history of West Indies cricket for the people who have repeatedly called for change to establish their moral and economic right to enforce it because of their current investment.

We've said our emotional investment in West Indies cricket ought to entitle us to some say in how it is run. That has fallen on deaf ears. Now we are in a position to speak of our investment in terms of dollars and we have the absolute right and responsibility to seek returns.

CARICOM governments invested upward of US$500 million to host the ICC World Cup (CWC) 2007 - stadia alone accounted for just over US$300 million. According to Jwala Rambarran, an economist, if you take just Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica and St Lucia, perhaps the countries spending the most, that would be 11% of their combined revenue. That is significant enough to give an idea of what this level of expenditure means for the various regional economies, moreso as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned of a negative net effect - what Rambarran predicts as a post-CWC economic slump.

It indicates just how inextricably bound the fate of West Indies cricket has become with Caribbean economies. Without sustainable, profitable and attractive cricket, the returns on these investments will be lost. Faced with this looming prospect, those who have taken the monies of their people and invested it in this CWC have a grave responsibility to ensure that returns are maximised.

This cannot be done if the fate of West Indies cricket continues to rest within the domain of an entirely private entity.

Ken Gordon, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president, was quoted in the Trinidad Express last Thursday as saying: "We've been carrying a deficit of US$15million. If we can find a way to clear that, it eases our overall structure." He told reporter Garth Wattley that the CWC had left him "optimistic enough to hope that it might wipe it all out", and that if the WICB didn't get what it had projected, "we will get pretty close".

So much for covering themselves, but what about the 2003 presentation to tourism ministers by Chris Dehring that offered 100 000 visitors and a million tickets sold? Now ticket revenue stands at possibly US$30 million, one-tenth of stadia cost.This will not cover CARICOM investment and unless the future of West Indies cricket is not wrested away from the WICB, this region will be set back by decades.

The CWC has ended. It is time to balance the books. As it stands, who can impose a forensic audit on the process? Who can ask how the moneys were spent and who can insist on full accountability and transparency? There is far too much at stake here for the usual method of appointing toothless committees.

The WICB is not even sure to cover its debts, far less have anything left to invest in development. Elsewhere, Gordon indicated that though a development plan existed, it had been left on the backburner in the absence of resources to implement it. If you examine what resources have been spent on it, that tells you where priorities lie. Even the plans it offers now to save faceare doomed because the old guard cannot and will not implement them. The atmosphere within that decrepit structure is so poisonous it would kill anyone venturing in.

I support Rawle Brancker's call for a new way to run West Indies cricket because the old way has collapsed. A new organisation based on a business model, with Caribbean people as its shareholders, can be practical and is critical for survival.

The WICB may have dismissed previous calls, but if there is any conscience left within that organisation, they would acknowledge that they had failed, and their failure now additionally endangers Caribbean economic health.

They should pack up and hand over the keys.

Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad

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Vaneisa Baksh Vaneisa Baksh has been studying West Indies cricket's history for ages, and has been writing on the game for even longer. She has been admitted as a member of the Queen's Park Cricket Club in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, which recently opened its doors to females. She hasn't become one of the boys yet, though.
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