Michael Atherton leads global criticism of power grab within ICC

Former England captain is among several high-profile opponents of attempt to cede control of the game to three countries

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 11:21pm

Former England captain Michael Atherton and a leading global anti-corruption watchdog have joined the chorus of criticism on plans to effectively cede control of world cricket to India, Australia and England.

Leaked draft proposals being discussed at a two-day International Cricket Council (ICC) board meeting in Dubai, that ends on Wednesday, call for more decision-making powers for a three-strong group of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board, who between them represent the game's wealthiest nations.

There is also a plan to create two divisions for test cricket but with England, Australia and India all guaranteed to avoid relegation from the top tier because of their commercial importance.

Why does the BCCI need more money at the expense of other countries?
Ehsan Mani

Atherton, now the cricket correspondent of The Times, was scathing in his condemnation of the proposals, writing they represented "the end of the notion that a fair and principled and just body can govern cricket in the interests of all".

Atherton agreed the ICC had to be reformed, but said there was little merit in a "Big Three" plan.

"No one doubts that the status quo, as far as the ICC is concerned, is unacceptable: two full-member countries are thought to be corrupt; four are essentially broke; most rely on India's largesse to keep going ... politics, race and personalities interfere at every turn. Incompetence is a given."

Transparency International said the "intention to entrench a privileged position for 'The Big Three' appears to be an abuse of entrusted power for private gain, giving them disproportionate, unaccountable and unchallengeable authority".

If adopted, the plan would mean the end of the ICC's Future Tours Programme, a system which compels the leading 10 test nations to play each other during a set period.

No one doubts that the status quo, as far as the ICC is concerned, is unacceptable
Michael Atherton

But the plan's supporters argue boards would be freed from unviable tours and that this would lead "the seven" beyond the "Big Three" to become more financially self-sufficient.

The proposals need seven votes from the ICC's 10 leading nations to pass.

The BCCI has also appeared to float "the nuclear option" of withdrawing from all ICC events if the proposals are not accepted.

This is a potentially disastrous situation for many of the game's smaller nations given the BCCI, thanks to cricket's huge popularity in India, generates some 80 per cent of the ICC's revenue.

Still, Cricket South Africa and Sri Lanka Cricket, representing two leading countries, if not two of the most financially powerful, have both called for the withdrawal of the "position paper".

Leading former senior administrators, led by Pakistan's one-time ICC president Ehsan Mani, have also denounced the "Big Three" plan.

"Why does the BCCI need more money at the expense of other countries?" Mani wrote in an open letter to the ICC, adding more funds should be diverted to cricket's junior nations.

"If cricket could be established properly in the United States and China and become an Olympic sport, the ICC could double its revenue in real terms over the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "This requires vision and a less parochial approach."

Ali Bacher, a former South Africa captain, wrote: "The position paper put forward by BCCI, ECB and CA if accepted would lead to division and strife in world cricket as never seen before," wrote Bacher.

New Zealand Cricket's Martin Snedden has been a relatively lone voice in insisting there was more to the scheme than a naked power grab.

"Get this right and the FTP programme can be extended to 2023 and we can line it up with ICC events like the World Cup and World T20," said Snedden.