The WICB/CARICOM debacle
The letter of this country’s Prime Minister to the President of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has brought to the fore a number of issues in the world of sport that reflects the limited understanding of how sport operates in the international arena. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that neither party has really attempted to understand the nuances of sports management and how things are really done in practice to say nothing of the international community’s attempts at forging ever new ways of doing them better.
In an earlier Column dated 14 November 2014 titled, West Indies’ deepening crisis, reference was made to the Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket, which was established in 1999 and observed …Evidence suggests that CARICOM remains blinded by its own interpretation of what the game should mean to the peoples of the Caribbean to such an extent that the Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket operates as though the sport has not moved on.
Our contention here is that the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket is an unfortunate invention and is reflective the short-sightedness of the regional institution itself. Consequently, West Indies Cricket will remain underdeveloped at best given its continued operational modus.
We also stated in the same edition of The News newspaper …The Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket does not understand what has been happening to the game of Cricket around the world and how it has impacted the ways of our players today. They do not have the slightest idea.
By and large the current political leaders involved in the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket are still thinking of the sport as an important part of their own historical upbringing with a definitive role in the liberation of our peoples.
We argue here that today’s players on the West Indies Cricket team have no such pretensions.
Prime Minister Gonsalves’ letter only serves to give credence to the analysis made in the earlier Column referred to above.
Anyone following the game of cricket in the Caribbean knew that at some point the leaders of the fracas in India would pay a price.
The colossal embarrassment to the WICB may well have so irked the leadership that they will remain ashamed for a very long time to come.
It is not surprising therefore that the selectors are credited with naming the One Day team in South Africa, on the eve of the World Cup. That is the process and one would have expected that the WICB, which has the final decision-makingpower on all aspects of the game in the region, would have sought and obtained an explanation for the action of the selectors.
What is surprising is the reaction of the Prime Minister of this country.
The WICB is an independent and autonomous sport body and has been for decades. Under the rules of the International Cricket Council (ICC) the WICB is answerable to it. There is no provision that makes the WICB accountable to government anywhere nor to the masses.
The fact that governments have sought to intervene when an impasse occurs has little to do with the global structure of the sport and the way the ICC members do business.
Admittedly governments in the Caribbean, as is the case elsewhere, feel that they provide the sport with its infrastructure and provide financial support on occasions. However the truth is that the ICC operates very much at an international level the way the NBA of NFL operates in the USA, independent of government control.
Governments are called upon, for example, to support their National Olympic Committees and the chosen cities that bid to host the quadrennial Olympics. They provide billions of dollars in infrastructural support but they do not control the Games. The Games are the property of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The structure of international sporting organisations is essentially the same. National associations associate to their respective international federations and through them to their regional and/or continental organisations. There are no provisions for answering to the government or the masses.
Governments often support national sports associations in their endeavours for a variety of reasons much of which is the hope of getting greater international exposure as a preferred tourist destination, sport tourism, long-term economic benefits and health benefits for the people of their respective countries.
International sport organisations do however agree to engage in collaboration with governments in the interest of broader national development. But there are limits in this regard. The British Olympic Association and the Australian Olympic Committee both attended the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 despite their respective government’s agreement with the US government’s call for a boycott. US athletes wanted to participate and would have been allowed to do so under the Olympic Flag but the US government warned all such interested parties that they would be stripped of their passports should this occur.
That the WICB is seen as perhaps hiding behind the selectors is not in any way different from the way some governments and particularly political leaders operate. They claim a mandate to govern their respective societies by virtue of success at the polls. They seem to care little what means are used to garner such victories and rule with power. Indeed many government leaders boast of being in power rather than being at the service of the people who elected them.
It is therefore most surprising that Caribbean political leaders dare to call on a regional sporting body to account to the masses of the region.
Indeed as the WICB sees things now if the politicians wish to influence the decision-making process within the organisation they should contest for positions when elections are due just as happens in national politics. There is a constitution that guides the administration of the organisation and determines how one gets elected.
Much ado about what?
“The days of men riding horses with cork hats across plantations are, metaphorically, over. The WICB must stop functioning as a virtual private club and be responsible and responsive to the people of the region.”
The foregoing comment from the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines does little to appease the very people he seeks to address but may well be deemed by some to be consistent with his approach to issues that seem to ignore his perception and/or characterization of things.
Slinger Francisco, the Mighty Sparrow, in 1979, delivered Kerry Packer, a hard-hitting calypso on the conduct of the then West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) now the WICB, as much as it was about the Australian media tycoon’s venture into international cricket in a manner that transformed the game for all time.
For decades the peoples of the Caribbean have come to understand that the leaders of the game in the region see themselves as its custodians. They have never seen themselves as answerable to the peoples of the region and this despite the numerous books and articles that have chronicled the extent to which the peoples of the Caribbean have used the game as an embodiment of their aspirations.
What the Prime Minister and indeed all of CARICOM’s heads of government have failed to understand is that it is the select few players who understood the importance of using the game as a political vehicle to challenge the colonial order at the time and break the bondage of the colour/class legacy left as the most daunting and infectious legacy of slavery.
CLR James was very clear that even as a select few players understood and participate defectively in the anti-colonial struggle in their time the administrators of the game in the Caribbean were of no such disposition.
Although the West Indies was involved in playing the game since the 1880s the region only joined what was the then Imperial Cricket Council in 1926 and played its first official international test match in 1928.
Indeed at the time of Constantine and Worrell et al seeking to make the game a vehicle for Caribbean liberation, the institutions in the respective countries that made up the regional body governing the sport were, in many instances clubs and not national associations.
It was not until the late 1960s for example that a Trinidad Cricket Board was conceptualised. Prior to this the organization representing the country was the Queen’s Park Cricket Club established in 1891. This was virtually the norm across the Caribbean. More than this the clubs that ran the sport and represented our respective countries on the regional body were initially all white, a reflection of the colour/class nature of the sport at the time just as was the case with the leadership of the respective societies. That is the legacy and all of the Caribbean leaders, historians and political scientists are aware of this.
Caribbean politicians have not been able to do more than watch as the game transformed over the decades through to what it is today.
What then has changed in West Indies Cricket?
The region is caught up in a globalised world but our respective countries behave like crabs in a barrel rather than come to terms with the changes taking place everywhere.
Europe, with so many advanced nations, has seen the importance of a European Union with a European Parliament, legislation that has teeth and a single currency.
In the Caribbean the larger countries have immense difficulty maintain currency stability. They are embarrassed that the EC dollar has led the way in the Caribbean as the most stable currency and are therefore unwilling to yield to return to it as best for the region.
The region remains essentially myopic.
What is happening with West Indies cricket today is a reflection of the malaise that plagues the entire region in all spheres of activity. The politicians are too blinkered in their vision to see reality and so fashion fastidious innuendoes that lead nowhere.
The WICB, WIPA and CARICOM are all caught up in the same web of despair at our failure as a people to come to terms with our own debilitating myopia.