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West Indies cricket – crisis and opportunity

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Tue Nov 11, 2014

by G E M Saunders

As officials set about the task of resolving the current crisis in WI cricket and ultimately restoring both pride and image, it is important that there is a resolution to be analytical, transparent and most of all, forthright. For the Caribbean people, cricket is a critical component of its tourism thrust, cultural heritage and global image and this situation has quite rightfully demanded the attention of all its stakeholders.{{more}}

If the key attributes of a president, CEO and management team include effective financial and operations management, as well as excellent negotiating, marketing and communication skills, how then does one regard Dave Cameron and the WICB’s company’s cry to Caricom for help in resolving what is clearly their own self-inflicted crisis?

The fact that the WICB, in participating in what is now known to be a $100 million dollar venture with the Indian Cricket Board, engaged and sent a team of de facto employees halfway around the world to offer their services, in the absence of remuneration agreements, must be indicative of a serious deficiency in management.

It is serious, because this tour was scheduled years in advance; serious, because the WICB was negotiating and partnering with a cricket powerhouse and the economic centre of world cricket. It is serious because an employer and a union seemingly withheld the financial details of a negotiated agreement until the employees were all virtually committed on the job.

It should come as no surprise that the players, in their usual exuberance, travelled to India and acted in good faith, with the understandable assumption that their employers and their union would adequately look after their interest in ensuring that their bottom lines would not be significantly affected. In any event, if an employer is proposing a reduction in remuneration, it is only reasonable that this reduction be made known prior to engagement.

What is amazing is that it took all of seven months for the details and financial implications of a memorandum of understanding that was agreed to in principle in February to be eventually signed in September 2014, and on the eve of the team’s departure for India. Interestingly, at that signing ceremony, President Cameron was reported as saying that the WICB will take a “chunk” out of “the international pool and spread it across the regional group into the player pool.” Clearly, while the players may have agreed in principle to a possible reduction, the quantum of this “chunk” was never agreed to nor was the impact known.

The players must have also felt aggrieved in not knowing how much if any WIPA and the WICB themselves had agreed to give up in remuneration in order to further spread this pie around to the regional pool. Was this player salary reduction the only option available? What about plans to grow the revenue pie or plans to reduce other expenses and overheads? Did WIPA or the Board share any of this with the players?

Surely one can understand the reaction of the employees upon learning that their salaries would suddenly be reduced by 40 per cent. What was difficult to understand was the lack of assurances from WIPA at that point that they would reengage the WICB in the light of the players’ complaints. Equally baffling was the fact that, faced with a looming player strike, the employers, the WICB, knowing clearly what was at stake, hid behind the union, WIPA, and refused to communicate directly with its employees, the players.

The important question to be answered now is: did the players’ decision to withdraw their services, after the fourth game in India, have to necessarily result in an end to the tour? Additionally, did the WICB choose to recall their employees when other options could have been exercised, including showing these valuable, yet aggrieved employees some respect by giving them a Board undertaking to renegotiate the current contract with WIPA? Could WIPA and the WICB have agreed to a temporary suspension of the new MOU?

Surely both Dave Cameron and the players should have been alert to the fact that the stakes were much higher for themselves than the intermediary WIPA. Sadly, rather than bend to the players’ concerns, the Board chose to tell the powerful Indian Cricket Board that it was prematurely ending the tour. What must now be worrying for Dave Cameron and his legal advisors is the possibility they may not be in a position to claim a frustration of the contract with the Indian Cricket Board if they indeed had other options on the table which could have in fact averted or ended the players’ strike.

In light of the above, Caricom ought not to simply accede to Dave Cameron’s request for assistance in the absence of contrition and other concessions. If Caricom is to be involved in any negotiated settlement then there must be conditions, central to which would be an agreement to hold a judicial inquiry into the entire debacle.

Addtionally, Caricom has now been provided with a convenient pretext to enforce a revisit of the 2007 P.J Patterson Report, which, among other things, recommended changes to the governance structure and a business model approach, similar to what was previously attempted by Pat Rousseau a few years earlier.

The WICB, in a show of good faith, should also now agree to a suspension of the recent MOU signed with WIPA and a return to the old conditions of contract until a new agreement with the players can be achieved. Finally, there should also be an undertaking by both the WICB and its players to abide by the findings and recommendations of any inquiry. If this undertaking is not achieved, then we would have missed another opportune moment to reform the management of WI cricket, consistent with these lucrative modern times.

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