In an excerpt from A Corner Of Every Foreign Field, Tim Brooks narrates the tale of how the financial power shifted during the early Nineties from England to India.
While cricket was expanding its membership and beginning to take advantage of the financial opportunities of the sports business age its governance had remained virtually unchanged since 1909. The MCC had feudal over lordship and had run, or at least sought to run, the ICC as its imperial branch. But with new members bringing new votes and financial power shifting to Asia it could not go on as it had.
It came to a head in an infamously fractious annual meeting in February 1993. The substantive issue was confirming the location for the 1996 World Cup. It had previously been agreed it would be hosted in England but India wanted it themselves and requested multiple adjournments of the meeting to consult India’s Lord Chief Justice on how to amend ICC voting laws to reverse the decision.
ICC voting had become more complex with the increase in its associate members. Although full members had two votes each they could theoretically be outvoted by the 19 associate nations who had one vote each. This had led to a rule change where two-thirds of full members were needed to pass a majority on a binding decision and one of these had to be a founding member, England or Australia.
This veto for founding members had been agreed by India but they then contended that the destination for the World Cup should not be categorised as a binding decision and therefore a simple majority vote should apply. Given World Cup hosting was the principle reason for calling the meeting it seemed churlish in the extreme to claim it wasn’t a binding decision.
In preparation for taking this stance India and its subcontinental supporters had courted favour with the associate nations by offering a bigger cut of funding and they applied pressure on Zimbabwe who they had championed for elevation to full membership. The meeting went on long into the night and in the end England’s Test and County Cricket Board capitulated on the proviso that they would definitely host the 1999 World Cup.
A decision had been reached but the ramifications went much further than merely who would host the next World Cup. It was announced that David Richards, chief executive of the Australian Cricket Board, would become chief executive of the ICC later that year, signalling the end of the MCC’s influence. England had also ensured that the profits from the 1996 World Cup would be reserved to fund the ICC secretariat. TCCB head, A. C. Smith, pulled no punches in describing the meeting as the worst he had ever attended with no talk of cricket whatsoever.
It was a watershed moment in the game. Many in Britain lamented the politicisation of the game and the capricious effect of profit over principle that signalled a loss of innocence. It had all worked perfectly well, the argument went, on the basis of goodwill and focusing on the spirit of cricket. Cricket had always pursued purity and the ugly spectre of profit and politics had conspired to pollute the game. Even the term purist is used far more in cricket than any other game.
‘I make no apology for being a purist,’ many cricket fans will declare. But this view came from a country that had run the game, had ensured they were protected with a veto and ran cricket like the Commonwealth.
It was understandable others may question this hegemony and want a share of the power, even if their methods lacked, what more fitting word, grace. Understandable too that management of a multi-million-pound global sport may have outgrown leadership by an 18th-century gentlemen’s club, however honourable and paternalistic their intentions.
This piece is an excerpt from Tim Brooks’ A Corner Of Every Foreign Field. You can buy the complete version here