Australian Cricket Moves Forward Under New Governance- Ken Jacobs

November 1, 2012

As Cricket Australia commences its first full week under the jurisdiction of a new look Board (including three totally independent Directors) it is certainly worth considering some of the challenges ahead but perhaps also worth reflecting on the legacy that the former Board (with Directors all previously elected by the State Associations),have left for Australian Cricket.

While many argue that the previous system was an old antiquated system from the days of federation, the facts are that the previous system served cricket in Australia quite well- “yes” there were faults with the system and the cries of state based parochialism were always prevalent but Australian cricket has generally always been strong, strong on the field, strong financially, strong in numbers playing the game and the State Associations (who are in fact the owners of Cricket Australia) have also done their part in promoting the game and developing players for Australia.

At its last AGM under the “old” structure Cricket Australia declared a surplus for 2011/12 of $ 45.6 million off revenue of $265 million. These are indeed impressive figures that most national sporting bodies in Australia, with the exception of the AFL and possibly NRL would be most envious of!

Distributions to the shareholders of Cricket Australia (the 6 State Associations) also increased by 12 % to record levels during 2011/12, totalling some $70.5 million and the States have been reassured they will be “no worse off “under the new governance model going forward – I would have thought the objective should be to be better off otherwise why agree to a new model?

During the 2012/13 season Cricket Australia will commence renegotiations of it television rights with the Nine Network and Fox Sports and this should result in healthy increases in its total media rights revenue. Having recently negotiated a new agreement with Sky Sports in the UK and remembering that Cricket Australia is also one of the owners of the Champions League where ESPN Star Sports have the broadcast rights and you throw in digital and radio rights it is not hard to see that Cricket Australia should be looking at a total media rights package well within the vicinity of $1billion or more.

The Australian Women’s team –the Southern Stars won the recent ICC T20 Women’s World Cup and that should provide a wonderful fillip for the women’s game in Australia but there is still much to be done in this area if Cricket Australia is to break down some of the traditional barriers and ensure that “cricket” is forefront in the hearts and minds of women around Australia.

One of the avenues to success in this area is the Big Bash League, about to enter its second season- in 2011/12 Cricket Australia spent some $13million is establishing the eight new franchises around Australia and while some matches were well attended and television ratings strong, this season is critical for the ongoing success of the competition and for the BBL to really make its mark on the Australian sporting landscape – Shane Warne is not going to be around forever but the promotion and success of the competition will again be heavily promoted around his personal involvement as captain of the Melbourne Stars.

Cricket Australia also recently released details of its 2011/12 cricket census outlining details of the number of people “participating” in the game over the past twelve months .Participating as distinct from regularly playing the game for a club and herein lies another challenge for the new Board of Directors .While the number of participants (classified as anyone who participates in a structured cricket activity on a minimum of four (4) occasions) increased by 3.54% to a total of 880,291 people around Australia the number of people playing the game at club level decreased by 3.5% across the 3820 cricket clubs across Australia – this is a massive concern going forward remembering that it is Club land that produces the players to play State and national cricket. The Cricket Australia strategic goal for cricket to be “Australia’s most favourite sport” is certainly realistic but perhaps even more important is to ensure that Club cricket remains vibrant and well supported by Cricket Australia.

The new Board of Cricket Australia including its first ever female Director can be well pleased with the health of the organisation they are now responsible for in conjunction with CEO James Sutherland and his staff of 140. However on the eve of what is shaping up as two mouth watering Test series for the Australia team against South Africa and Sri Lanka the 2012/13 season will also provide plenty of challenges ahead for the new Board off the field as well!

Ken Jacobs has many years of experience operating in the sports and leisure industry across a range of issues relevant to the sports business sector at local, national and international levels.

From 1980-2007 he managed significant growth in one of Victoria’s leading sports as CEO of Cricket Victoria. During this period Ken was responsible for the management of an increase in participation levels from 100,000 to 185,000 across 1100 cricket clubs in Victoria and a growth in revenue from $500k to $25million. He was also responsible for the implementation of Cricket Victoria’s renowned local government and volunteer recognition programs and the implementation of its first strategic plan. This period also included management and promotion of the iconic Boxing Day Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground which has been recognised by the State Government as one of the State’s marquee events

From February –May 2007 Ken was engaged by the International Cricket Council as Event Manager for the staging of cricket’s World Cup in the Caribbean region.

The growth in the business of cricket has been replicated across sport generally which includes an increase in employment in the sports sector, an increasing involvement of government at local, state and federal levels which has coincided with increasing commitment in the funding and promotion of sport.

Ken is a qualified accountant (FCPA),is a member of the Australia New Zealand Sports Law Association and has an extensive network of high level sport, government, commercial and media contacts to ensure clients receive the desired outcomes. Ken was awarded The Medal of the Order of Australia on Australia Day 2009 in recognition of his contribution to cricket and the community.

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