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CA, CSA oppose WICB's release-fee concept

CA and CSA have voiced opposition to the WICB's decision to levy a 20% release fee for NOCs to West Indian cricketers seeking to play in overseas T20 leagues

Nagraj Gollapudi
Kieron Pollard celebrates after breaking the opening partnership, West Indies v South Africa, 6th match, ODI tri-series, St Kitts

WICB's decision to levy a 20% release fee for NOCs has not found favour from other member nations  •  AFP

Cricket South Africa (CSA) and Cricket Australia (CA) have strongly objected to the WICB's decision to charge a release fee in order to provide a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to Caribbean players participating in overseas Twenty20 tournaments. The WICB had decided to impose a levy of 20% of a player's contract fee, which it says should be paid by the host board in order for West Indies players to participate in their T20 tournaments.
The news came to light earlier this week when it was leaked that WICB informed Kieron Pollard, on November 3, that he would not be given the NOC to travel to South Africa for their domestic T20 tournament, where he plays for the Cape Cobras.
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In a subsequent media release on Tuesday, the WICB issued an explanation of its decision, which it said was a policy move made by its board of directors. But later in the day, WICB chief executive Michael Muirhead said Pollard had been granted the NOC without any condition. Muirhead added that the WICB would carry on the dialogue with the other boards.
"While we do not wish to act in restraint of trade, we must seek a balance to ensure that there is fair and adequate compensation for the investment made in the players," the WICB release said. "What WICB seeks is some compensation to recognise the investment made into players, an investment from which another Full Member is benefitting."
However, other boards disagreed. Both CSA and CA said they did not support the proposal and pointed out that it was recently tabled for the first time by the WICB, but not agreed upon, at the Cape Town round of ICC meetings held in October.
"It was a WICB proposal, but not supported by any other member at the time," CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said. "It was the first time the topic was raised and it was concluded by all that we should reflect on it as a part of all of the other reforms or regulations that we are presently working on to support the primacy of international cricket."
Lorgat said the WICB decision to go solo without proper consideration and agreement with other stakeholders was inappropriate. "I was quite surprised by the approach of the WICB because we had discussed this concept in a very preliminary way at the last chief executives committee (CEC) meeting in Cape Town. As an isolated measure, we cannot support it at this stage."
Muirhead told ESPNcricinfo that WICB president Dave Cameron had said the concept was first discussed by the ICC board of directors at a meeting earlier this year. "I understand from my President that it was approved at the ICC board level, which is above the CEC. The Board agreed to the concept that [the] fee would be charged. I have not seen the minutes itself, but this is what he told me."
Muirhead said the ICC might have discussed the issue further on its own and perhaps pointed out some "practical" issues, which led to the discussion once again by the CEC in Cape Town in October.
"It came up for discussion at the CEC [meeting] and then they took that back to the Board. But there was an initial approval at the board level earlier."
According to Lorgat, the WICB decision was surprising because the ICC members had agreed that the concept of a release fee needed more discussion to understand the full implications.
He confirmed that CSA had responded to the WICB saying it would not support the payment of release fees at this stage. "We have written back saying we are not in a position to agree to pay release fees when neither our board nor the ICC members have properly considered the concept."
That opinion was supported by CA, too. "We are aware of the issues pertaining to West Indies Cricket Board releasing players for other domestic leagues and are in discussion with them on this," a CA spokesperson said. "Cricket Australia does not support the proposal suggesting that release fees be paid by home member boards to WICB in order for West Indies players to play in their domestic leagues. This matter was briefly discussed and rejected by member board CEOs at the recent ICC Chief Executives' meeting in Cape Town."
Administrators - in the ICC and of the Full Members - have been concerned about the rising popularity of domestic T20 tournaments, which have eaten into the viewership of the other formats of the game. What has also bothered many boards is players opting to retire from international cricket to become free agents, in order to lengthen their T20 shelf life.
As such, Lorgat said a release fee was appropriate in the case of the IPL, which is played over nearly two months every year when all international cricket effectively comes to a standstill, as players from most countries participate in the lucrative tournament in India. In addition, the BCCI does not release their players to the other leagues. For these reasons the BCCI pays member boards a certain fee by way of compensation.
"It should clearly apply to the BCCI because all the other countries have effectively created a window for the IPL and thus lost the opportunity to commercialise their international rights during that period," Lorgat said. "That is why the BCCI compensates the other member boards. It is clearly very different."
But Lorgat added that the same formula could not be mechanically applied to other member boards.
"Without having worked on the details and the implications, I have a feeling that the smaller boards will be disadvantaged by the payment of release fees, or it would simply end up all square between the various boards with similar amounts being paid to each other."
Additional reporting by Daniel Brettig

Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo