The International Cricket Council, the world governing body for cricket, will be presented this week with recommendations from a committee led by Lord Woolf on how to reform the way it does business both on and off the pitch.
I welcome this review as long overdue, and was more than happy to contribute some of my experience, as both a former Test player and head of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board, to a submission made by Transparency International to the ICC review committee.
Cricket faces a number of obvious challenges — such as combatting the kind of spot-fixing that led to the sentencing of three Pakistani cricketers for corruption in 2011 — and those who manage the game must look at their existing structures.
Sport today is a multi-billion dollar business. Today’s sports governing bodies have to start operating as big businesses, using best business practices. The International Olympic Committee has already gone through a reform process; other international sporting bodies must too.
One of the key points we stressed in our submission is that while the players are the ones who face greatest public scrutiny, it is the administrators, both at the international and national level, who set the infrastructure and environment in which players and match officials operate. And this must be transparent and accountable.
We made a total of 20 recommendations to Lord Woolf but I’d like to highlight just a couple here.
First the ICC should conduct an independent risk assessment of the corruption risks facing cricket today, including the mushrooming of new types of tournaments and the emergence of franchise and syndicate ownership of teams, and determine what impact these risks have on the integrity and reputation of the game.
Sport, as we all know, is a key avenue for engaging and influencing young people. Corruption linked to sport, therefore, has tremendous repercussions. We recommend that the ICC ensure adequate anti-corruption training for players and officials. Prevention would be far more desirable than the kind of medicine meted out to the young Pakistani players who are likely to spend many months behind bars.
Secondly, the ICC should introduce best-practice policies in all areas of its internal procedures — from how it handles whistleblowers and conflicts of interest to the way it elects its officials. It should produce a detailed code of ethics that spells out what ethical conduct means in practice and it should set and enforce governance standards, both at its headquarters and in the cricket boards of member countries.
This is not a matter of reinventing the wheel, but it does require tremendous will and commitment.
At Transparency International we publish all-purpose guidelines on how to counter corruption in business and we adapted these when we submitted our recommendations to FIFA, football’s world governing body.
The ICC is a traditional body where the power lies in the hands of the 10 full member countries, but naturally some are more influential, and therefore, the cricketing superpowers must exert their leadership to fast-track this review process in order to put reforms into practice.
Change is always difficult, especially if it threatens established power bases. The ICC is to be commended for initiating this review process. It is the first international sports organisation to seek the input of its various stakeholders.
In a world where the cricketing fan base is growing, it is imperative that the sport’s governing body ensure the integrity of the game. I look forward to seeing what Lord Woolf’s review produces. To simply maintain the status quo would be, well, just not cricket.