In the absence of any cricket due to Covid-19 and all available sources of funding drying up fast, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has decided to cut the salaries of the coaching staff by 25% in May. That number could jump to 50% in June if their tour to Zimbabwe in June is cancelled. Although the ACB has paid the dues for the first three months of 2020 to all the its contracted players, their salaries are likely to be reviewed in the near future if financial situation worsens.
Among those impacted are Lance Klusener and HD Ackermann, the head coach and batting coach respectively along with former captain Nawroz Mangal, who is the assistant coach. Klusener and Ackerman, who joined in September 2019 and March 2020 respectively, have their contracts until the end of the year.
"This is part of our cost saving strategy as we have been also impacted by the Covid-19 crisis," ACB chief executive Lutfullah Stanikzai told ESPNcricinfo. "We have decided to cut 25% (of the salary for the coaches) for May, 50% for June if we are not able to resume international cricket. We will try and keep them for as long as our financial situation allows."
Although Afghanistan's next official assignment is the Asia Cup, the ACB and Zimbabwe Cricket have agreed to play five T20Is in Zimbabwe, which isn't part of the FTP. Stanikzai said the ACB was waiting for the country to resume overseas air travel, before taking the final call on the Zimbabwe tour. According to him, the ACB will also review as a next step whether to "cut" salaries of contracted players. Currently, 32 senior men cricketers and 55 domestic players have retainers from the board.
'We do not have any sponsor'
Stanikzai said the ACB, , like most of the sporting organistaions, have had to rework its revenues that have been thin for a long time. The ACB is bracing for the worse with doubts hovering over both the Asia Cup and the men's T20 World Cup.
"We are just trying to save costs wherever we can," he said. "There has been loss of revenue for us - the government grant we receive is at risk because the government is spending that on dealing with the pandemic. We lost our clothing partner Tyka. We are not 100% sure Asia Cup will take place and the revenue we will receive from there. If there are problems with the T20 World Cup that will also impact us negatively going forward to next year and beyond."
Afghanistan were granted full membership in 2017, which entitled them to a distribution cost from the ICC for participating in global tournaments. As per the new finance model, they'd get around US$ 40 million for the 2016-23 commercial rights cycle for projected ICC revenues of $2.7 billion. However, with the ICC's projected revenues coming down those costs have been adjusted to close to $4.8 million per year.
Staninkzai confirmed that the ACB received 50% of its distribution costs for 2020 from the ICC, amounting roughly to US$ 2.4million in January. The ACB has been reeling financially after one of its major sponsors, Alokozay Group of Companies (AGC), cancelled its contract last year after differences with the ACB.
Recently, after the pandemic forced the world to shutdown, Tyka, an India-based firm that signed up as a clothes sponsor with the ACB, terminated its two-year contract meant to run till the end of 2020. To compound the crisis the Afghanistan government is yet to give the annual grant to ACB, which contributes about 15% of the board's revenue.
Stanikzai sighed about the mounting challenge for Afghanistan, which remains war-torn and financially weak. Therefore, the ACB have had to look overseas, mainly towards Indian sponsors. "We do not have any sponsors. We just have to find them on an ad-hoc basis series by series."
The ICC wrote to all boards in the aftermath of the pandemic to check if they needed emergency financial support. The ACB decided against taking up the offer as they aren't due to play much international cricket at the moment. As per the ICC's FTP, other than the Asia Cup, Afghanistan are scheduled to participate in the T20 World Cup followed by a one-off Test against Australia in 2020.
Stanikzai said getting the advance from distribution costs would not actually "help" the ACB. "It will have no impact on our revenue. It is just the eight-year cycle money allocated to the ACB."
Earlier this year the ACB had written to the ICC asking to "increase" its share of the distribution costs for the 2021-23 period.
"Next year we have a lot of cricket. It is going to be a tough year for us. We have requested the ICC to increase our distribution costs, but we have not received a positive response yet. We were told we will get some of our distribution money in advance which will be decided in July (ICC annual conference)".
'Getting same money as we did when we were Associates'
Stanikzai feels Afghanistan's income from the ICC hasn't changed drastically from when they were an Associate. This has prompted them to seek a larger pie from the ICC, keeping in mind the volume of cricket they will play in 2021. They are scheduled to host Ireland and Zimbabwe and then play India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in limited overs series.
"We are getting the same amount of money from the ICC when we were an Associate. The Full Member tag has (only) increased the expectations form among our fans and all other stakeholders, but we are not receiving any additional money to help us fulfil those expectations."
The pandemic is going to pose a bigger risk for the smaller countries like Afghanistan and Ireland, both of who rely on the ICC distribution money to run and administer their cricket. Recently Cricket Ireland cancelled the home series against Afghanistan due to financial difficulties.
"For smaller cricketing nations like us and Ireland it is not easy to manage everything with the amount of money that we receive from ICC. Obviously our cricket does not have the viewership that other (Full Member) boards have.
"We do not play India or England to help us generate the kind of revenue that we would want. We are mostly playing Ireland and Zimbabwe from where we cannot generate the kind of revenue that will help us to be financially stronger."