BCCI, ECB and CA on course to play ball for ICC

MUMBAI: A change is gonna come, wrote one of the most revered R&B artists, Sam Cooke, in 1963.

Possibly singing the same tune today is the triumvirate of India, Australia and England, what with reports of the ‘Position Paper’ - which gives decision making powers to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Cricket Australia (CA), and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) - soon coming into effect. Buzz is the trio may well be on its way to securing the necessary votes for revamping the global cricket governing body, ICC, even as other member nations lose their grip on the situation.

“Around July last year, I encouraged CA, ECB and the BCCI to work together and develop conditions to which all the member countries can come to terms with,” ICC president Alan Isaac said in a recent press conference. “We have currently drawn up the principles but the detailing needs to be done after conducting discussions. The idea was to get the three of the biggest and strongest boards together in one room and come up with a strong plan of action.”

At the same press conference, ICC CEO Dave Richardson added: “There were numerous negotiations going on with all the member countries, but at the end of the negotiations, we saw that there were only these three nations that had those sticky points which we were looking out for.”

Neither of the other boards has released an official statement but top officials on the executive board of ICC have gone on record in approving the proposed changes that give the trio complete freedom in the way cricket will be played 2015 onward as well as revenue shared in accordance to the brand value a test-playing nation is worth.

Among the first ones to point out detrimental flaws in the BCCI-drafted ‘Position Paper’ were the cricket boards of South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Thereafter, the trio tweaked a few clauses to get other member boards to agree to the terms with West Indies, New Zealand and minnows Bangladesh having already given the go-ahead. The biggest hurdle the trio faces is that for the ‘Position Paper’ to come into effect, they need eight out of the 10 member nations to give their nod. Apparently, they are just one vote away from the three-fourths majority required to push the proposal through. And the financially crippled Pakistan cricket board is likely to be the one to bite the bullet. Not only has the country been struggling to maintain cricketing ties, given the prevailing political conditions, it hasn’t been able to host an international match since early 2009. This may be just the opportunity for the nation to have bilateral series under long-term contracts with the trio.

That said, the proposal put forth in the ‘Position Paper’ appears fundamentally flawed as it assumes members have a proprietary interest in the money their respective economies generate for ICC events.

Fact is broadcasters buy cricket rights because it appeals to their customers, drives subscriptions and advertising revenues. Similarly, sponsors use cricket to promote their products and services.

While values are generally greater when the broadcasting country is playing, not all of it can be attributed to the country’s cricket board. The opposition too has a great bearing on the value cricketing boards receive for their media rights.

Indian broadcasters would prefer broadcasting ICC events and Star Sports would stand to earn brownie points, having acquired the broadcast rights for Indian cricket for a price of Rs 3,851 crore, which covers over 96 matches between 2012-2018 including internet and mobile rights.

That BCCI generates nearly 80 per cent of the world’s cricket earnings is a given. The only way most other boards can maintain a reasonably plump bottom line is from the massive broadcast rights acquired from a tour by India. Not surprisingly, weaker boards such as West Indies and Bangladesh would jump at the opportunity where they are guaranteed no relegation from test cricket plus the possibility of India touring more frequently to help generate revenue.

So, it’s just a matter of time before the trio start officially throwing around their weight in terms of decisions regarding the scheduling of bilateral ties, especially involving either of the three.

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