The MCC World Cricket committee (THE WCC) met recently at Lord’s ahead of the second LV= Insurance Men’s Test match between England and Australia, to continue its assessment of the state of the global game.
Following the first meeting of 2023 in Dubai, in which it concluded that the game was at a crossroads with intervention required, it now releases specific recommendations for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to help ensure the long-term prosperity of the men’s and women’s international game.
Upon conclusion of the session on Tuesday 27 June, the departing Chair of The WCC, Mike Gatting, highlighted the need for the ICC to take “a democratic and inclusive approach” to maximise the generational opportunity that has been presented to cricket over the next five years, courtesy of the recent record sale of the media rights for ICC Global Events.
The discussions across the two days centred around the complicated and contradictory place international cricket finds itself in. On the surface, the game may seem economically buoyant, enabling more money for full members and growth for associate countries and women’s cricket, more franchise playing opportunities for elite male and female cricketers and a greater diversity of choice for supporters to watch and attend the various match formats.
However, the committee also highlighted that a widening disparity between nations is evolving, with the current model heavily favouring the minority who dominate a system that, without intervention, has the potential to not suitably benefit the international game. The committee voiced particular concern for the survival of Test cricket in nations outside of India, Australia and England, with the associated impact brought about by a narrowing competition pool.
The committee continues to hear of the growing unaffordability to host men’s Test match cricket in many nations and concluded that the game currently lacks quantifiable data on the costs of hosting a Test match across its member nations. To address this lack of insight, it proposed a recommendation for the ICC to undertake a Test match financial audit to provide a clearer picture. This audit of operational costs versus commercial return would help the ICC identify nations in need of support in order to sustain a Test match programme. This need could be subsequently addressed via a separate Test fund, established to protect the sanctity of Test match cricket.
The committee discussed how to protect, grow and strengthen women’s cricket globally. It believes that the optimum solution to support this objective would be to create a substantial and ringfenced ICC Strategic Fund that can be allocated on a required basis to full member and associate nations who, amongst other key initiatives, fully commit to their women’s pathway and national team. The WCC also believes that in order to qualify as a full ICC member, each nation must be required to commit to investing in both men’s and women's cricket and field a national women's team.
Ahead of the next iteration of the ICC men’s Future Tours Programme (FTP) in 2028, it calls on the ICC to ensure the men’s FTP beyond 2027 has an equitable schedule of matches for all full member countries, rewarding hosts and touring nations alike. The goal must be to secure a balanced, meaningful, and commercially viable FTP for all, which prioritises bilateral cricket, finds suitable space for franchise cricket yet, in particular, supports the full potential of the ICC World Test Championship to be recognised.
The committee questioned the role men’s One Day International (ODI) cricket now plays outside of ICC World Cups, and recommended it be significantly reduced following the completion of the 2027 ICC Men’s World Cup. The suggestion is that a scarcity of ODI cricket would increase the quality, achieved by removing bilateral ODIs, other than in the one-year preceding each World Cup. This would, as a consequence, also create much-needed space in the global cricketing calendar.
The ongoing concerns with the pace of play in men’s Test matches were again discussed. Despite a thrilling World Test Championship Final, a substantial number of overs were lost throughout the duration of the Test, and in the first Test of the men’s Ashes series, with both teams fined and penalised World Test Championship points after failing to comply with over rate targets. The WCC has previously raised these concerns with ICC, along with suggestions for intervention but has yet to see any change implemented.
"It’s time for the global game to reset"
Following the conclusion of the World Cricket committee and the release of the game-wide actions, outgoing Chair, Mike Gatting, said: “In many ways, cricket is growing and, on the surface, seems financially strong. However, we are increasingly seeing a game which focuses on a powerful few, as opposed to a democratic and inclusive approach for the benefit of the whole sport.
“It’s time for the global game to reset. Too often, member nations are finding themselves living hand to mouth with their cricketing operations, versus having a long-term, viable strategy in place that future-proofs the game in their country, both financially and in terms of participation.
“We are currently at the commencement of a new ICC Future Tours Programme and financing cycle, and we would recommend further evidence of the requisite funding being directly apportioned to the strategic needs of cricket.
“The actions that were raised at the recent meeting highlight the importance for the ICC to proactively engage the global game to find solutions that work for everyone. A more equitable approach would, in turn, provide more commercial stability and continue to grow the potential of the ICC World Test Championship.
“The growth of the women’s game must also be consistent with the growth of the game as a whole. We need to ensure that nations are rewarded for their commitment to investing in both the men’s and women’s game alike, and a ring-fenced fund could be an important step here.
“We have seen similar reports previously, which haven’t led to actions or tangible improvements. The WCC firmly believes that if we are to protect the game of cricket as a whole, immediate action must be taken to bring about significant transformation in the sport.”
The full list of committee members is as follows:
Mike Gatting - Chair