Independent probe required By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
April 22, 2007

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WHILE THERE would be impressive national infrastructure facilities and standing regional security mechanisms as positive legacies of our hosting of Cricket World Cup 07, the debit side of pain and shame suffered at cricket venues--on and off the cricket grounds--seem destined to linger and hurt us well into, and possibly beyond, Cricket World Cup Asia 2011.

By then, hopefully, we would have had the findings of an independent probe--perhaps conducted by the University of the West Indies---to determine why so much went wrong since our successful bid to host the historic event back in 1998.

Question is who will bell the proverbial cat in what remains a blame-shifting game involving principally the West Indies Cricket Board and its incorporated subsidiary,Cricket World Cup West Indies, and Caribbean Community governments to objectively assess the extent to which the punishing tentacles of the International Cricket Council (ICC) were spread over national/regional sovereignty?

Could such a necessary probe properly be initiatiated by the WICB, that cannot escape a shameful process of genuflecting to the dictates of the rich and powerful who run the ICC, in view of dependence that may have already resulted from funding arrangements for the Board?

Or, must it really be, as some well-placed West Indians feel, the moral obligation of CARICOM Heads of Government to boldly authorise such a probe. This, despite their own perceived negligence in required oversight and/or misplaced trust, for too long, in the work of the WICB/CWC Inc as key negotiators with the ICC?

For the many West Indians who have had to endure humiliation at the nine cricket venues in the numerous restrictions for matches--including stadiums entrance and departure; high-priced seating arrangements with various cases of embarassing unilateral changes at some venues; in taking of food and drinks (including size of bottled water), and the deprivation of traditional musical instruments for entertainment--it may be easy to pour blame on Local Organising Committees (LOCs).

Also, for the level of control by the ICC/CWC Inc over park-and ride sites that have led to indignities suffered by even some high state dignitaries in Barbados, as well as the denial of the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) to place flyers on cars at such locations in their education campaign against drunk-driving.

For their part, having resolved their own differences over the extent of CARICOM's involvement in the bidding processes for CWC 07, some Community leaders are now sweetly saying that, "on hindsight", they should have moved early to avoid some of the problems that thousands of cricket fans have encountered.

Bidding Process
The leaders may well have gone wrong when they initially failed to adopt a policy of unanimity, as proposed by one Prime Minister--and with at least two others leading the objection--that was to result in the individual country biddings, instead of a unanimously agreed initiative to take care of all events, starting from the cermonial launch of the World Cup, to the final and encompassing the preliminaries, super eight and semi-finals.

In contrast, for World Cup 2011, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) have already decided, on their own, accordng to media reports, on the proposed venues for the opening ceremony (Bangladesh); semi-finals (Pakistan and Sri Lanka) as well as the final (India).

More significantly, CARICOM leaders were faced with a virtual fait accompli by the time they had figured out--thanks to the militancy of a few of their own more vigilant and alert Attorneys General--why they should be adamant in demanding to receive a copy of the very vital Host Agreement (HA) entered into by the WICB/CWC Inc with the ICC, before engaging in further meetings on their own obligations.

That Host Agreement was, unbelievably, being withheld until then, by the WICB/CWC Inc from CARICOM governments, whose commitment and support they had sought and obtained for hosting the ICC's World Cup, until faced with refusal to continue the consultative process.

The CWC's Chief Excecutive Officer, Chris Dehring, who has been the lead "negotiatior' with the ICC, recently felt compelled to go on the offensive, in the face of mounting complaints, with a defensive recitation of the sequencing of developments for our hosting CWC 07.

Dehring well knows of the demonstrated anger that led to the late handing over of vital agreements, starting with the Host Agreement., delivery of which had already been preceded with a Master Rights Agreement (MRA) between the ICC and Global Cricket Corporation (part of Rupert Murdoch's business empire), for exclusive broadcasting and commercial rights, to which NO changes could legally be made.

The Threat
Significantly, when CARICOM representatives started showing keen interest in what they were being required to support, and realised the extent to which our collective sovereignty were being undermined, both ICC and CWC Inc officials were ready to raise alarm about possible shift of World Cup 2007 to either South Africa or Australia.

It was clearly an orchestrated strategy--and one, sadly, for which some of our governments fell--to scare them into largely concur with what had been presented to them (by the WICB/CWC representatives) as a "done deal".

However enormous the ICC pressure---in which Caribbean nationals of CWC Inc. shared--CARICOM leaders should have known that South Africa, host of the 2003 Cricket World Cup, would not have been a party to an vident blackmail of our Caribbean region. Not after the firm pledge of support with relevant technical assistance for CARICOM that had previously been publicly offered by President Thabo Mbeki for hosting the tournament.

For its part, it is doubtful that the government of Australia would have been keen either to serve as altenative host for CWC 07, once informed of our principled opposition to the inordinate, undignified pressures from the ICC to circumscribe the region's sovereignty and make a mockery of the pride of Caribbean people..

Overwhelmed as they were about the prospects and legacies of CWC 07, CARICOM leaders apparently settled to hope for the best by placing too much faith in the competence and integrity of the WICB/CWC Inc negotiators with the ICC. Was this case of misplaced trust? An independent probe should help establish.

The leaders even showed little or no interest when a very serious warning surfaced publicly in September 2005 from then chairman of CWC Inc. Rawle Brancker, Barbadian business executive and former West Indies cricketer, for a due diligence and forensic exercise into the management of CWC Inc.

It was a call preceded by ongoing disagreements at meetings involving the CEO's Dehring and Brancker about the consequences of lack of proper accountability in host management/negotiating arrangements and the apparent free ride the ICC was enjoying in its demands for compliance.

Such demands were later to be discovered as being firmly secured among the non-negotiable provisions of the Host Agreement HA); Host Venue Agreement (HVA) and the all-embracing "Sunset Legislation" with its provisions governing ticketing, marketing and security arrangements.

In contrast to the explanation/defence CWC's Dehring recently offered to the media, he was declaring to journalists back in September 2005 when questioned on Brancker's criticisms and call for a management audit, that he had "no time for peripheral issues" since his focus was on "delivering the Cricket World Cup".

Well, that "delivery" has taken place--with its mix of positive legacies and serious negative consequencies---as the WICB/CWC Inc's top officials, like Ken Gordon (President), CEO Dehring and Legal Counsel Derek Jones would be aware--and involving worrying CARICOM leaders and ministers being forced to demand copies of vital documents that were being kept from them---whether by default or design.

In the ongoing post mortem on CWC 07 and, required independent probe, it may be relevant for officil attention to be paid to demands being made elsewhere, including that of Lord MacLaurin--former chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board--for a thorough, independent review of the structure and management of the ICC itself, to ensure, as he said, "that we really have the best people running world cricket..."

In echoing a similar sentiment, there are, without a doubt, endless thousands across the Caribbean anxious to extend such a call also to the WICB, as a priority, for the future development of West Indies cricket. So, who will bell the cat?

'Reds 'Perreira Press Box
MEANWHILE, as local plans are being pursued to establish an independent management committee for the Guyana National Stadium, the hope is that independent thought would also help to influence the naming of the main pavilion after the great Clive Lloyd --- I still feel that it should be named after this internationally famous cricket icon.

While both the Guyana Cricket Association and officials of the existing Local Organising Committee could also recommend naming of stands after other outstanding Guyanese players , like Rohan Kanhai and Lance Gibbs, serious consideration should be given to naming the new press box after Joseph 'Reds' Perreira, one of the region's best known cricket broadcasters.

Other CARICOM states have done this for their outstanding broadcasters of the game, why should Guyana not extend such an honour to a deserving son like 'Reds' Perreira?