The West Indies are leading a push for radical changes to protect the competitiveness of international cricket.
A new report by the West Indies advocates money from the International Cricket Council being allocated more equitably between countries, broadcasting rights being pooled, away teams receiving a share of home broadcasting rights for series and major global events being shared between more countries.
The proposals are formally on the agenda at the ICC Annual Conference in Dublin, which begins on Thursday. “There has never been more money in the sport,” West Indies chief executive Johnny Grave said.
“The game must adopt more equitable revenue sharing to ensure that cricket is sustainable in all countries, that the game grows throughout the world and that there is a competitive balance among teams to generate interest among fans.”
The report also claims that the structure of international cricket is “loaded in favour of wealthier nations”. It warns that if steps are not taken to help the sport in other countries, nations from beyond Australia, England and India – the ‘Big Three’ – will become weaker, matches will lose competitive balance and the appeal of international cricket will dwindle.
Such concerns have grown because of the burgeoning wealth gap between the Big Three and other nations and the ascent of Twenty20 leagues, where many players can earn far more than in international cricket. The West Indies have regularly fielded depleted teams in international cricket, due to clashes with domestic T20 competitions, while South Africa have suffered a series of unwelcome retirements in recent years, including those of Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott and AB de Villiers.
One of the key recommendations is for the ICC’s revenue and events to be shared more equally. On current projections, India will receive £306million from the ICC over the 2016-23 period, England £105m, the West Indies and several other Test countries £97m, and the 92 Associate nations only £147m between them.
Similarly, in that same period, all six major men’s events are being held exclusively in England, India or Australia. The report advocates that future world events be shared around different Full Members, and that every second World Twenty20 tournament should be held in an emerging nation.
It also suggests cash from ICC events should be pooled and distributed among all members, and that the events themselves should be increased in size, to help the sport grow in emerging nations.
There are also calls for the Indian Premier League to do more to compensate Full Members during the tournament. The IPL currently pays release fees to boards for signing players, but the report says that the tournament should compensate Full Members who have agreed not to schedule any international cricket during the two-month IPL season. It is the only T20 league granted such a window.
Effectively, the report appeals to the largest nations on the grounds of self-interest, suggesting that, if matches between the Big Three and other nations become more predictable then viewing figures will fall.
The overall revenue generated by Australia, England and India is growing at a faster pace than for other countries – all three boards recently secured lucrative new broadcasting deals – so the financial gap between these three nations and the rest will become more pronounced in the years ahead.
This enables the Big Three countries to fund far greater investment in cricket and player development, infrastructure and administration. For example, the value of England’s new broadcasting contract, beginning in 2020, is £220m-a-year, compared to £12m-a-year for the West Indies’ broadcasting contract.
Effectively, this means that if England and the West Indies each host each other for series of equal length, at home and away, then England will earn almost 20 times more revenue over the two series. This is “not conducive to producing optimum outcomes for the global game and ensuring the competitive balance within world cricket,” the report claims.
It argues that, because of the value of what the largest countries earn from domestic TV rights, dividing up ICC revenue more equitably would “make a real difference” to other countries but have a “negligible effect” on nations like England and India, for whom ICC revenue is only a small share of their total income.
Until 2001, revenue was shared between the home board and visiting boards. Until 2014, the Future Tours Programme stipulated that each Test country would play at least one series of Tests and ODIs against each other every 10 years. Without this principle of reciprocity, the report argues, there is “inherent instability in the system”, with countries outside the Big Three having a worrying over-dependence on spikes in income from these nations – especially India – touring.
The report advocates that the overseas broadcasting rights for all international series between Test nations be pooled among members, and sold on a collective basis. Touring teams would also receive 20 per cent of the value of the domestic rights.
The structural inequalities that the report exposes are highlighted by how Scotland, despite beating England in a one-day international this month, will play no more internationals this summer due to a lack of funds. This year, Scotland receive only £1.32m from the ICC.