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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Democratising cricket

Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Democratising cricket

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THE PUBLIC LECTURE on the future of West Indies cricket by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada was useful mainly as a restatement of the lines which separate the supporters of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) from those,like Dr Mitchell and some CARICOM heads, who have been calling for restructuring, reformation and transformation of the governing institutions of West Indies cricket. 

He must be commended for using the UWI’s 19th annual Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture to identify in precise terms the weaknesses of the current structure and personalities which make reform necessary.

The most compelling aspect of his presentation was his use of the comparative method in referencing the cases of Cricket Australia as an example of a modern and progressive board, and of India as a jurisdiction in which cricket has been accepted as a “public good” despite being run by a “private organisation”.

It is instructive, however, that despite the strength of his case, the main questions from the floor revolved around “what are we going to do about it” and “how are we going to do it”. In other words, those making the case for reform are now being challenged to move beyond the writing of reports which the WICB has been dismissively ignoring. 

It is clear that the WICB is unwilling to respond to calls for reform and has chosen the path of political resistance. In other words, despite the clarity or morality of the case for reform, the WICB has chosen to dig in its heels, has no intention of fighting a philosophical battle, and has indicated that it can only be defeated politically, rather than intellectually.

With the case for reform clearly made, and with the WICB responding politically rather than developmentally, the moment is now ripe for the pro-reform forces to engage in an overtly political struggle to democratise the governance of West Indies cricket. In addition to the two approaches to which Dr Mitchell alluded, namely, a unified stance from CARICOM and the leadership of the reform movement by the cricket legends, the outlines of a potential political response are provided below, albeit truncated by the exigencies of word limit.

1. The deliberate political takeover of the running of the various cricket associations by pro-reform forces at territorial and regional level

2. The strengthening of anti-corruption laws to scrutinise “private sector” funding of West Indies cricket

3. The establishing of a strict framework of partnership between WICB and governments that will determine future governmental support to the WICB.

4. The deliberate mobilisation of civil society as a conscious cricket reform movement.

None of these objectives will be easily achieved, especially given CARICOM’s inability to achieve unified action, and given the need by tourism-dependent Caribbean states on cricket revenue. However, it is clear that only direct political action can break the stalemate. Forward Ever!

Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: [email protected]