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Afghanistan cricket plunged into crisis as ICC funds-flow hits snags

ICC money hasn't reached the country because of international sanctions following the Taliban's takeover last year

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
The ICC has told ACB that money cannot be moved into Afghanistan without an approved regulatory mechanism in place  •  AFP/Getty Images

The ICC has told ACB that money cannot be moved into Afghanistan without an approved regulatory mechanism in place  •  AFP/Getty Images

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is staring at a financial crisis, with ICC funds not able to reach the board after July 2021.
Since the Taliban's return to political power in August 2021, international sanctions have made it increasingly difficult to send money into the country. ESPNcricinfo understands that while the ACB has completed pending payments to players at all levels as well as the coaching staff, it will be able to pay only 30% of the salaries to employees and other staff working in Afghanistan.
ACB officials based in Dubai have been talking to the ICC on the matter, and it is understood that attempts are on to find alternative routes - including via registered NGOs - to get the money into Afghanistan, but no solution has been found yet. It is understood that the ICC has told ACB that money cannot be moved into Afghanistan without an approved regulatory mechanism in place.
Afghanistan became Full Members of the ICC in 2017, which entitled them to enhanced distribution of funds from the ICC revenues, like other Full Members. According to the ICC's funds-disbursement model, the ACB was expected to get around US$ 40 million for the 2016-23 commercial rights cycle based on projected ICC revenues of $ 2.7 billion. However, with the ICC's projected revenues coming down, that has been adjusted to around $4.8 million per year.
The ACB last received a payment* of $2.5 from the ICC in July last year. ICC payments are made to Full Members twice a year - in January and in July. To deal with the situation, especially when it comes to getting the national team to travel around the world for tournaments and other series, the board has arranged UAE residency visas - for about two dozen players.
In fact, the UAE connection has been a useful one for the ACB. In some instances, ESPNcricinfo has learnt, when Afghanistan have hosted "visiting" teams in the Emirates, the ICC has made payments to vendors on the ACB's behalf. The money is adjusted against the funds ACB is meant to get from the ICC.
In Afghanistan, domestic cricket activities continue. Last week, the ACB kicked off the fifth edition of the first-class Ahmad Shah Abdali tournament with five teams competing at two venues, in Khost and Nangarhar provinces. Next up is the Ghazi Amanullah Khan one-day tournament, starting in late November. All the players and support staff involved in those competitions will expect to be paid, but payments are likely to be delayed.
Unfortunately for the ACB, ICC revenue is its major source of funds, since no international team travels to Afghanistan for bilateral assignments, and the ACB's T20 tournament, the Shpageeza, is not broadcast beyond the country.
After the Taliban takeover last year, there were concerns that Afghanistan's Full-Member status could be taken away by the ICC because of the Taliban's position on women in cricket, that they are not allowed to play. Subsequently, Cricket Australia took a stance on the matter and a scheduled Test with Afghanistan [in Australia] was called off. Afghanistan will, however, take part in the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia, as they had in 2021 in the UAE. Also, in the latest ICC future tours programme, Australia have two bilateral commitments against Afghanistan - an away T20I series in August 2024, and a tour of one Test and three T20Is in Australia in July 2026.
* Updated at 3.05pm GMT on October 12, 2022.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent