PMs advised: Tread carefully
IF VINCENTIAN PRIME MINISTER Dr Ralph Gonsalves had his way, regional governments would stay out of the ongoing dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA).
This is why, he is advising them to tread very carefully in light of the decision they took at the just ended summit in St Kitts to reactivate the prime ministerial sub-committee on cricket under the chairmanship of Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
The sub-committee also comprises the leaders of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, with the CARICOM chairman Dr Denzil Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis serving as an ex-officio member.
According to the official communique issued at the end of the talks, the leaders have been mandated“to engage the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) in an effort to resolve their on-going dispute”, which has now moved way beyond the boundary with serious questions being raised about the treatment of some senior players and management of the sport in general.
However, Gonsalves, who was absent from the Basseterre meeting, said he wanted to know upon what basis regional governments were acting in the matter.
“[In fact] I would think governments would have stayed out of that,” he told the DAILY NATION in an interview in which mention was also made of the recent position taken by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to free its member boards of government from political interference.
Gonsalves pointed out that the WICB was a private entity and as such it was not answerable to governments in the region, which he emphasized should only play a “consultative” or “facilitatory” role but not a “determining” one in cricket.
“Let’s assume that the governments wrote to the WICB and said, ‘we want a settlement between you all and WIPA or any particular set of players’ and the West Indies Cricket Board wrote back and said “I’m sorry. They [the players] are our employees and we have contractual arrangements with them and we don’t see how you can help us,” Gonsalves said.
He also said he was unclear about what else the sub-committee was to do, stressing that “we [governments] have to be careful that we don’t overreach in these matters, which would trespass on the undermining of the good corporate governance of an entity.”
“Obviously we can’t run West Indies cricket. Obviously we can’t interfere in contractual relations between one entity and another. Even the Minister of Labour has certain authority in relation to conciliation and there is a process of arbitration in our labour laws but whether these parameters relate to the relationship between the board and the people who they contract with, is a different story.”
In response to calls from social commentators for governments to get involved, he said while he did not want to close his eyes to the importance of cricket “we just have to be careful that we stay within certain boundaries”.