The ICC is considering increasing funding for Associate and Affiliate nations as part of the ongoing review into its governance and structure. The news will go some way to appeasing Associate representatives aggrieved by the effects of the ICC's 2014 financial and administrative restructuring, informally referred to as the Big Three takeover.
Funding for the 95 Associate and Affiliate nations from 2015-23 has currently been agreed at $299 million, only a slight increase in real terms from the $252 million awarded to Associate and Affiliate nations in the preceding media and commercial rights package from 2007-15. Had the ICC rights for 2015-23 been distributed according to the previous revenue model (2007-2015), Ehsan Mani, the former ICC President, estimates that the Associate nations could have received over $550 million.
Under the new model, Associate representatives believe that the majority of the ICC's 95 non-Test members face a real terms funding reduction. "Over 50 Associates and Affiliates [out of a total of 95] are likely to be worse off in 2015-16 compared to 2014-15," said Simone Gambino, the Italian Cricket Federation president. The claim was backed up by a number of other representatives, who expressed grave concerns about the future of the game beyond the Full Member nations.
"I worry how some countries will recover from the crushing reduction in funds. All that we have achieved is at risk," said Ken Farmiloe, the Chairman of Cricket Belgium. "As far as I can see, Ireland are the only country in Europe who are better off in 2016. Most countries seem to be worse off as, in addition to a reduction in funds, there will be no financial support from ICC Europe for projects."
When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, the ICC privately denied that such a large number of nations will be worse off, saying that the number who have suffered funding reductions in 2015-16 is no higher than in a typical year. According to the ICC's rules, funding is determined by a combination of on-field performance and the ICC's "scorecard" tally which takes into account a myriad of development factors to rank associates and determine funding. The ICC were unwilling to specify how many countries are better or worse off in 2015-16 compared to 2014-15, but said the new funding model for Associates and Affiliates was designed to prevent sides that maintain their position in the rankings from being financially worse off.
It is however understood that, when the discontinuation of the Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme (TAPP) is taken into account, a number of leading Associates will receive less ICC funding. Cricket Scotland are understood to be over $200,000 worse off comparing 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Netherlands, UAE and Kenya are other prominent countries that have suffered an overall funding reduction.
Privately, senior ICC figures say that they are looking for a more efficient funding scheme to replace TAPP, perhaps called an ODI or Cricket Fund. They also stressed that TAPP was only introduced in 2012, midway through the last rights cycle, and expect an equivalent scheme to be implemented much quicker in the current rights cycle.
Given the ongoing review into the ICC's funding distribution model. David Richardson, the ICC chief executive, said: "It would be pointless to speculate further at this stage as to whether any particular group of members will be better or worse off financially than before."
Associate nations have been encouraged by Shashank Manohar's words since taking over as ICC chairman. One senior source said they were hopeful that India's share of ICC revenue would be reduced, perhaps from 22% to 16%, as previously reported, and this could lead to the overall pot for Associate and Affiliate nations increasing from $299 million to $325-350 million from 2015 to 2023. Another figure said that Manohar has been surprised that Zimbabwe receive over $5 million more than Afghanistan and Ireland from the ICC, and hoped to close this gap substantially. Funding shortages are expected to have made Ireland, for example, unable to commit to some ODIs they have arranged in 2016 and beyond.
Any increased funding towards Associate members is likely to follow the recent trend of Associate spending being targeted more aggressively towards the highest-ranked nations like Afghanistan and Ireland. Because of their inclusion on the 12-team ODI rankings table, Afghanistan and Ireland receive an extra $1.7 million a year from the ICC, and around $2.5 million annually in total from the ICC. "Their funding success has come at the expense of other Associates and Affiliates," Malcolm Cannon, the chief executive of Cricket Scotland, said in December.
Countries in the World Cricket League Championship, the competition for the next rung of Associates in ODI cricket, receive only $300,000 a year for participation in the tournament, and none currently receive more than $1.2 million in total a year.
Richardson explained why the ICC was committed to prioritising spending towards the strongest performers among Associate nations. "One of the objectives arising from the recently approved ICC Strategic Plan for the period 2015-19, which is relevant to the development of the game, is achieving more competitive teams at the highest level. To achieve this we need to be more targeted in the allocation of resources - money and services - to the members that have the potential to be competitive at that level, i.e. to deliver the desired return on investment.
"The objective is therefore to provide more funding to the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan and others who have the potential to compete successfully at the highest level, preferably without reducing the level of funding available for distribution to the other members from what they collectively received before."
This marks a continuation of the process in 2008, when Associate and Affiliate nations decided to pool their funding and divide it up according to the scorecard, thereby rewarding countries making progress. Several representatives stressed that they supported the increased funding for the top Associates but felt the overall funding pot for Associates and Affiliates was insufficient given the rise in the value of ICC commercial deals.
Ultimately some in the ICC hope to move to a model in which funding for all nations, including Full Members, is based more on performance and less on status. Proposals for two divisions in Test cricket (comprising seven teams in Division One and five in Division Two, with promotion and relegation) and a ODI format pitting the 12 leading nations in groups (perhaps two with six teams each) to form the basis of World Cup qualification are being advocated by Richardson and other senior figures at the ICC, as part of the ongoing review into the structure of cricket. It is envisaged that the ICC would fund the costs of matches within any such structure.
Some Associate representatives remain unconvinced. "Whether the changes will affect the smaller Associates and Affiliates remains to be seen," Farmiloe said. He also expressed his concern that World Cricket League Six has been scrapped; in total, since 2012, the number of divisions in the World Cricket League has fallen from eight to five. "The cutting of WCL excludes many countries vying to better their cricket. Also, the big question is what the ICC regional offices will do without a budget."
Spending on department services - money largely allocated to regional offices who then provide grants and support to members - has fallen from $81 million from 2007-15 - to an estimated $56 million under the current 2015-23 funding model.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts