Lone Woolf Cries Out For Reform – Peter Frawley

February 1, 2012

As the constituent members of the ECB delay, until their next meeting in March, the synchronisation of their thinking on the Morgan Review into the structure of the domestic game in England, the great and the good of international cricket are currently in Dubai at the quarterly meeting of the ICC’s Executive Board to address, amongst other items, the presentation of the final report from the independent governance review of the ICC headed by Lord (Harry) Woolf, former chief justice of England and Wales.

The report is expected to contentiously include a recommendation to recruit independent members to the ICC Board and its numerous committees. This proposal is unlikely to be popular with a number of the influential nations and a Board dominated by the chairmen of the 10 Test-playing nations.

While leading players such as Graeme Smith of South Africa stated that the Woolf review should be a “wonderful opportunity for the ICC to fine-tune its leadership structure to ensure that the ICC adjusts to the ever-changing business of cricket”, Paul Kelso of The Daily Telegraph opines that the review “will likely be no-balled” by the ICC.

As Haroon Lorgat, the man bravely behind the commissioning of the report, prepares to step down as CEO of the ICC after several long and hard years in charge, let’s have a brief look at what exactly his successor (and, let’s hope for a non-repeat of the John Howard fiasco) will be inheriting and is the ICC really a ‘toothless tiger’ as labelled by Andrew Strauss in 2011?

A startling event in current sport administration history occurred at the end of 2011 when Transparency International (TI), the international organisation committed to challenging corruption worldwide, pronounced that, “Urgent action is needed to understand and address the changing nature of the corruption risks that face the game of cricket in the 21st century.”

Not only is sport not usually one of TI’s regular sectors of interest, but considering the scandals that have broken in such sports as F1, Pro-Cycling and more latterly in FIFA, it is perhaps telling that they have focused on cricket and concluded that, “ to date the ICC’s anti-corruption unit efforts have been focused on preventing players from being corrupted and only secondarily on creating greater accountability within the ICC”.

This most serious of judgments on the game’s international administrators may, as can so readily happen these days with our information filtration systems on overload, pass by with news of the next big rights deal or new tournament initiative, if corporate governance was all that was wrong. But other events over the last 12 months highlight a general crisis of administration within the game.

Rahul Dravid, that most respected and senior of international players, chose the venerable Bradman Oration in Canberra last month to state that the administrators were failing the games spectators and frustrating players by scheduling too many meaningless ODI’s at the expense of Test cricket.