Why cricket in Australia is at the crossroads

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By The Corporate Box, The Corporate Box is a Roar Rookie

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    When Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clarke announced the launch of a long overdue governance review on February 8, 2011, the cricket community in Australia was in disbelief.

    The board of Cricket Australia is a 105-year-old governing body which has a history of wanting everything about cricket to improve, except itself.

    While they may be known as the board of Cricket Australia, they are in fact an assembly of fourteen members, representing six separate state cricket boards and each state representative is expected to protect that state’s interest.

    The parochial character of the board has often been an obstacle to cricket’s progress and agility.

    When the management of Cricket Australia present various proposals to the board, this involves consultation not just with the fourteen Cricket Australia board members but also with the further 55 state cricket board members that they represent, ensuring that progress is almost impossible.

    And while individual state boards choose which of their members represents them on the Cricket Australia board, it remains unlikely that the skills and experience of the board overall, will bear any resemblance to the specific strategic challenges faced by Cricket Australia.

    The governance review announced by Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clarke is being undertaken by a duo with an outstanding track record in sporting governance.

    David Crawford played a central role in the establishment of the AFL Commission, provided the national governance model for soccer in Australia and together with Colin Carter proposed the “Crawford Report”, a recommendation for the future funding and organisation of sport in Australia.

    Colin Carter has been a member of the AFL Commission, is today the President of the Geelong Football Club and co-authored a leading text on board effectiveness titled, “Back to the drawing board” (HBS 2004). Their reports are invariably insightful, forthright and succinct and Cricket Australia would be wise to adopt the expert advice they have asked for.

    Crawford and Carter are scheduled to present their recommendations to the Cricket Australia board in October 2011 and the overwhelming expectation is that they will recommend dissolving the current board and replacing it with an AFL-style commission.

    In short, a commission might include around seven commissioners acting primarily in the national cricket interest and each specifically skilled in the areas of strategic challenge facing Cricket Australia.

    Not only has the commission structure assisted the AFL to grow successfully, but others in the cricket world, including Wisden editor Scyld Berry, have advocated its suitability for cricket.

    If a commission structure was recommended, the existing Cricket Australia board must vote itself out of existence, permitting the new national commission to replace it. This would represent a massive shift on the part of the states, which today effectively control Cricket Australia.

    State boards are made up of directors often with tenure of ten to fifteen years; many have waited patiently for the day when they are chosen by their state board to go to the Cricket Australia board.

    Under a commission structure a smaller number of directors would be recruited with the purpose of drawing on their relevant skills and experience.

    Few of the current directors of Cricket Australia or the various state boards, would possess the specific skill levels required to navigate Cricket Australia through strategic issues such as global media rights negotiations or attracting the young to cricket.

    When the governance review was announced by Jack Clarke, Cricket Australia chairman on February 8th 2011, he invited questions from the gathered media. Just when it appeared the Cricket Australia board may be surrendering its parochial past, the chairman indicated that board may pick and choose which of Crawford’s and Carter’s recommendations they adopt.

    ”I don’t want to pre-empt what it’s going to say but basically the basis on which Colin Carter and David Crawford have been engaged is that they will provide a report to the board,” he said.

    ”The timing of that is not exact yet. It’s up to the board then to decide which of those issues we do and do not go forward with. It’s not just a board issue, you can tinker with the board and perhaps it won’t change a lot. It’s the structure, and how you feed into the board from the states as well.”

    Meaning the board may review the governance recommendations from David Crawford and Colin Carter, then rather than adopt the complete advice of the best and most experienced in the nation, choose only to tinker with the existing board.

    This appears to be another case of board members leaving room to place parochial interests ahead of the national cricket interest.

    In so many ways, Cricket in Australia stands at the crossroads.

    Does the game’s popularity grow or decline? Will our national team return to greatness? In the same way that team performance, player development and team selection need to be addressed, so does the governance of cricket in Australia.

    For too long state cricket boards with little strategic capability have controlled the destiny of our favorite international sporting endeavor. Given the widely recognised shortcomings of the existing governance structure and the complex global sporting environment of today, the 105-year-old board is out of its depth.

    When the board of Cricket Australia meets in October 2011, they should accept the forthright recommendations of David Crawford and Colin Carter rather than tamper with them and potentially drag cricket under.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • August 2nd 2011 @ 5:28am
      David Lord said | August 2nd 2011 @ 5:28am | ! Report

      A supern piece TCB, congratulations. Come October, it will be CA’s turn to see how genuine the governing body wants to be – fascinating all round.

    • August 2nd 2011 @ 3:08pm
      The Ghost of Spofforth said | August 2nd 2011 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

      Sounds like Corporate nonsense to me. who could know more about cricket than the guys that have been on state or Cricket Australia boards for 15 years?

      • August 2nd 2011 @ 3:57pm
        The Corporate Box. said | August 2nd 2011 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

        Spofforth, the big challenges before Cricket Australia’s board today are no longer of an “administrative” nature, rather they are matters which determine whether cricket survives in Australia or not.
        For example; negotiating global media rights for the next 5 years will represent about 60 % of Cricket Australia’s revenue. Looking at the backgrounds of the current directors on the Cricket Australia website reveals that not one director has commercial media negotiation skills and experience. The same can be said for all state cricket boards across Australia. If the board is out of it’s depth in that negotiation your local junior cricket program may not be possible.

    • August 2nd 2011 @ 7:49pm
      sheek said | August 2nd 2011 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

      Hi Corporate,

      Good article. Will changing to a commission really save Australian cricket? Or will that simply be compared to changing the seating arrangements on the Titanic?

      More importantly than a commission is actually what changes Crawford & Carter recommend. The structure of Australian cricket must change, this much we know. But how we best manage the path forward is the very tricky bit.

      I must confess I don’t know how to progress into the future. If test cricket is no longer relevant to younger audiences, then get rid of it. Let’s stop pretending we really care about it.

      On the other hand, if test cricket is still important to the psyche of many people, then for God’s sake, let’s get it back front & centre. Let’s stop pretending test cricket needs to be propped up by a myriad of other forms of cricket.

      Test cricket & Sheffield Shield go hand in hand. So if Cricket Australia isn’t going to give the Shield it’s valued place in the pecking order, than forget about tests as well.

      I’m not necessarily against T20, but I reckon the BBL sucks. Really sucks. It’s insidious. The teams are shamelessly manufactured. The BBL has no other intention than fleecing as many sports fans as quickly as possible. It doesn’t even have the appearance of long-term permanency.

      Get in, make a huge buck & get out before everyone realises the whole gig is a wonton sham.

      Having said all that, I reckon the structure of the Shield must change from states to national city clubs. NSW Blues to Sydney Blues; Victoria Bushrangers to Melbourne Bushrangers, Qld Bulls to brisbane Bulls, & so on. Tasmania Tigers can remain the same so as not to offend either north or south islanders.

      You would then have the opportunity to grow the game down the track, introducing further teams from West Sydney, East Melbourne, Canberra, Newcastle, Gold Coast & other places.

      The original history & tradition is there (nicknames & colours), which you can build on. Not the gimmicky show we’ve had thrust upon us with the BBL…..

      • August 2nd 2011 @ 10:09pm
        The Corporate Box. said | August 2nd 2011 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

        It sounds like you needed to get that off your chest Sheek, well said, love your passion!!

    • August 2nd 2011 @ 7:51pm
      Johnno said | August 2nd 2011 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

      i think cricket outside of the ASHES is a sport in trouble. The ODI’S and and test cricket are in big trouble. And T20 is still an unknown. It feels a bit bubble gummish and emaningless and a bit boring, and only a batsman game which is a problem. You have to include bowlers to, there has to be an even contest for bat and ball, like in rugby defence has to get rewarded.

      And test cricket or ODI’S surviving good luck I don’t have the answers to those questions.

      Maybe make ODI’S pro 40 like they do in the UK. And in test cricket clean up all the time wasting.

      • August 2nd 2011 @ 10:24pm
        The Corporate Box. said | August 2nd 2011 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

        Johnno, you and SHEEK raise some very good points about where to from here for Cricket in Australia. I agree its going to be very challenging over the next few years, so all the more reason we must have a highly skilled group of commissioners who deal with these kind of issues every day of their working week.
        there is no doubting the effort of the current board members, only their capabilities to deal with the issues ahead.

        A question for you now; Which of the 3 game formats will be most popular in 2016?

        • August 3rd 2011 @ 11:22am
          sheek said | August 3rd 2011 @ 11:22am | ! Report

          Corporate,

          Can I get back to you in 2017?!

          My heart says test cricket will endure. My head says the quick money to be made from T20 will win out.

          By the time administrators realise test cricket is better than they appreciated, it might be too late.

          Personally, I would punt T20 other than as an intro format for young kids, & as a social connect.

          But the best two forms of the game are test cricket, underpinned by Sheffield Shield, & 50 overs cricket.

          All these different forms of the game aren’t adding long-term value, but merely mudding the waters…..

          • August 3rd 2011 @ 5:12pm
            The Corporate Box. said | August 3rd 2011 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

            Thanks Sheek ; well my feeling is that T20 will be done very well here in Australia after a bumpy start and it will be popular with teens. I thnk CA will recognise that the 4 day game and the Tests have a deep meaning for over 35’s and they will make the experience of attending these more social, just as the English do for County games and Tests. So each age group enjoys their own game format. As for 50 over, only for the World Cup each 4 years.

        • August 3rd 2011 @ 3:04pm
          Russ said | August 3rd 2011 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

          Corporate, that depends a lot on how you define popularity. ODIs consistently receive the highest percentage of people who say they “like” the format. That’s Hotelling’s Law at work. ODIs capture people who like both longer and shorter formats. But, they have also got consistently lower crowds than the purer short and long forms of the game, probably because, when it comes to spending cash, people opt for what they like the most, not a compromise. Not that it is completely clear cut, there are people who like ODIs the most, and people (like myself) who like tests and t20 and not the in-between.

          Popular also depends on the audience and the form of popularity. Most respected amongst cricketers (emerging and playing) in Australia? Tests, clearly. Offering the best opportunities for career advancement? T20, clearly. Most respected amongst test cricketers outside the big-3 test teams? Harder to say, but probably ODIs, maybe Tests or T20s. Cricketers outside the test teams, maybe ODIs, probably T20. Most respected amongst fans of all nations? Tests, but waning as the opportunities to make a mark as a test cricketer become narrower.

          Test cricket is pre-eminent now because we can point to 130 years of great players, tracing a thread through the decades down to today. In 20 years time, if we are comparing 150 years of test players, from a narrow base of nations, and 25 years of T20 players from a broad and diverse range of nations, then that pre-eminence will be harder to maintain. Hence I disagree with Johnno in one respect. I think the Ashes is killing test cricket. Not because it isn’t a brilliant spectacle (it is), but because it is dominating the attention of cricketing interest in England and Australia to such an extent, that people/players in those two nations are losing interest in any other tests (except India) and making interest in tests exclusive to 3 nations.

          Cricket was actually at this cross-roads once before, from the late 19thC through until WW1, when the choice for northern working class professionals was between popular short-form league cricket and elite amateur first-class cricket. And the first-class game won, by accepting professionals into their ranks and offering the incentive of playing test matches, by the influence of WG Grace playing as an “amateur” and through the celebration of aesthetic feats by Cardus and others. If test cricket becomes open to all cricketers I think it will survive, but I suspect there are a significant number of people who would rather it was dead and elite, than alive and played by lesser cricketers.

          • August 3rd 2011 @ 11:20pm
            Johnno said | August 3rd 2011 @ 11:20pm | ! Report

            I tend to agree with you about the ASHES killing cricket, and maybe the rugby wolrd cup killing internaitonal rugby theories very valid. As it puts to many fans me included into now just caring about the ASHES and becoming ASHES specialists. And the ASHES attracts fans from all walks of life that the sports of cricket gets lost as the ASHES becomes more of an event than a game of cricket perhaps, eg BARMY ARMY, endless celebritie interviews form people nothing to do with cricket, social pages of celebrities at ASHES. The ASHES has become like a melbourne cup carnival or an Olympics , attracting fans form all walks of life. But it is menaingful and draws emotion. When i was watching CNN on foxtel it was the lead sports story when it was on the ASHES.

            My theories or ideas to save test cricket are some such as.
            Get tough ICC on time wasting. Have like a yellow card/ red card sytem where players can be kicked out of a match , that’s right sent off if you time waste badly at crucial stages doesnt matter if it is 1st over of match or day 2 50 over in maybe send them off if do liek a proffesional foul or bad tiem wastign at a critical time eg a loss of a wicket if the new batter gets changes to gloves after facing a few deliviries to slow down the temp of oppositon, or on day 5 eg ASHES(2009 England mucking around to save the 1st test,a nd australia would of donw the same.) they umpires should of had power from icc to say to Anderson and Paneser hurry up or you lose your wickets.
            and with gear only bat allowed to change rest of gear to bad if you don’t have yourself together, if you have the worng helmet or gloves or spikes in your cricket shoes to bad. In rugby eg rod davies v samoa you can’t change your boots until half time to bad if you supposedly have wet wether boots for dry wether fotty to bad, switch on.
            And same with fast bolwers who waste time, penalise them eg capping number of overs they can bowl, or banningh them from bowling for 20 overs if they time waste. and i could go on and on with example sot punsih players.

            And i would have a subs rule. 5 subs per innings and five only . But the player wont be banned form not bowling , as soon as he comes back on he can bowl. but capped at 5 per innings. so if you go over 5 per innings you are down to 10 men until that player comes back on.
            This idea it keeps bowlers fresh. And you can only do 1 subs at a time.
            This way you can keep fast bowlers fresh in the fight agaginst bat.

            And with test series eg eng-india the ICC if it is serious about test cricket continuing give the visiting team the right preperation . You need lead up matches a time consuming but nessicary evil. SO that team can adapt to local conditions to make it a fair contest. sacrifice ICC some meaningless ODI or t20 matches to give teams pre test match matches if you are serious about saving test cricket.

            So some ideas . but i think the ICC and BCCI have to get serious and treat test cricket with respect if it is to survive. otherwise it will just turn into test cricket being the ASHES, and that’s it.

    • August 3rd 2011 @ 6:22pm
      The Corporate Box. said | August 3rd 2011 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

      Russ, great insights, brilliant points you make.

      Now another question for you and everyone;

      Please nominate who should be appointed to the “New” Cricket Australia Commission.

      Remember they have to bring the skills to deal with the very big issues challenging Cricket in Australia today.

      Names please?

    • August 3rd 2011 @ 11:01pm
      Johnno said | August 3rd 2011 @ 11:01pm | ! Report

      HOW ABOUT THIS CORPORATE BOX. Some bussines executive with media sales experience or sports administration experience, a ex test player eg Steve waugh shane warne, alan border, and maybe some one not nessicrily a player someone with junior development experince at a grass roots junior development level, like a operations or junior development officer, or a technical advisor eg john Buchanann. Just some ideas,but i don’t really know.

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