Rallying call to CWC 2007 By Tony Cozier
Stabroek News
November 6, 2003

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THE West Indies - and in a much wider context than simply West Indies cricket - would have been reassured during the week by the insistence of the International Cricket Council (ICC) that there isn’t, hasn’t been and is unlikely to be any plan to confiscate the 2007 World Cup from the Caribbean.

Cricket Australia’s chairman Bob Merriman’s prompt and direct denial of a Melbourne newspaper report that his board is on standby to take over because of the West Indies’ inability to handle such a mammoth undertaking was swiftly confirmed by ICC president Ehsan Mani.

Mani went further
The top brass of the ICC’s ten full members and three of its associates, he said, were unanimous at their meetings in Barbados last week that the world body would give all support needed to make sure that the tournament is the success that it deserves to be.

As welcome as it is, such comfort is no cause for complacency.

Rallying call
Quite the opposite. It should be a rallying call to all those involved - the WICB, governments, private sector, airlines, hotels and, above all, the general public - to disprove the Doubting Thomases, among whom are West Indians by the score.

There are clearly unique challenges in organising a sporting World Cup involving 16 teams stretching over five weeks and spanning a region with a dozen independent countries, each desperate for a piece of the juicy, US$500 million pie on offer.

The most obvious have been repeatedly itemised, most lately by journalist Trevor Marshallsea’s story out of Australia.

Even if it might have been prompted by personal prejudice developed by his experiences in covering last season’s Australian tour of the Caribbean, most of his grouses cannot be discounted.

Most of our main grounds are antiquated. The only on-site practice facilities are at the Queen’s Park Oval and at St Lucia’s Beausejour Stadium.

Accommodation is, in the main, limited and uncomfortable. Air connections between the territories are unreliable. The WICB has repeatedly been torn asunder by insular bickering. And so on and so forth.

If the WICB’s efforts in the recent Red Stripe Bowl do not fill us with optimism that they recognise such deficiencies as problems, at least those they have chosen from outside its ranks to administer the World Cup, must.

It has the potential, as do all such major events, of boosting both struggling economies and low self-esteem, the latter as vital as the former. Its failure would be a financial and psychological disaster.

The event is three years away and, if efforts to upgrade grounds and infrastructures have been late in gettting off the ground, there is no reason to believe they cannot be completed in time, especially since those who can’t will find themselves on the outside looking in. The leasing of aircraft and cruise liners to move spectators and media around the Caribbean is on the cards.

Caricom governments have committed themselves to streamlining immigration proceedures through the issuing of one World Cup “passport” to travelling fans through its duration and generally ensuring that the exercise isn’t stifled by unnecessary red tape.

There are bilateral series in the interim - against England and Bangladesh next year, South Africa and Pakistan in 2005 and Zimbabwe and India in 2006 - that can and should be used as dummy runs.

Public education
What is likely to be more difficult, and needs even more time, is the education of the public to what is required.

The issue is highlighted by the substantial claims for compensation from the ICC by the Global Cricket Corporation (GCC) out of this year’s World Cup in South Africa.

GCC paid the ICC US$55 million for the marketing and broadcasting rights, seeking to make its profit by raising sponsors and contracting exclusive television and radio broadcasters, whose costly interests it was obliged to protect.

Its claims, now the subject of a legal battle, arise mainly out of sponsorship of individual players that conflicted with those of the tournament and the failure of England and New Zealand to honour agreed fixtures in Zimbabwe and Kenya on security grounds. But GCC also asserts that its agreement on sponsorship was breached in other ways. This is an area that is likely to test the West Indies most for the WICB, individual boards and the public have never had to deal with such absolutely strict regulations.

For instance, the GCC deal called for “clean venues” - in other words, stadia and their environs that contain no advertising, of any kind, that conflicts with that of the main sponsors.

When I was invited to lunch in a private box in the Cup final at the Wanderers ground in Johannesburg last March, I was intrigued to find tape covering corners of the television sets.

On inquiring whether they had been damaged, it was explained that their brand was Sony, a conflicting manufacturer to one official sponsor, LG, and the name plate could not have been displayed. The same principle applied to cash registers and other electrical items.

As Pepsi was another sponsor, there could be no sight of Coca-Cola, even on T-shirts, far less raised in a can to a fan’s mouth. If such a conflicting T-shirt, or banner, was detected by security, the wearer had to remove it or leave the stadium. Anyone with Coke in their bags had to remove them before going through the gates.

The most popular beer in the box I was in was the Namibian brew, Windhoek, but the official sponsor was a different brand. So no Windhoek could be served at their bar - or any bar in the ground.

Blanket ban
And this blanket ban extended to a radius of a mile around the stadium. It meant that all clashing advertising in the designated area had to be removed or covered up for the duration of the match.

The World Cup involves serious money and is serious business. The same strictures apparently applies for other mega- sporting events such as the football and rugby World Cups and the Olympics.

It undoubtedly sounds outlandish to West Indians, who have never had to bother about such contraints and who may feel it is their birthright to guzzle whatever their favourite beer or rum happens to be while Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are belting the opposition out in the middle.

In 2007, if they want to inbibe at all, it will have to be the booze of the sponsor who has doled out millions of bucks for the right to have its brand associated with the event.

Of course, that is only if their government puts supportive legislation in place specially for the Cup, as the South African government did. Those that don’t could find the tournament doesn’t come their way - and the West Indies have already indicated that we very much want it to come our way.