The MCC World Cricket committee (WCC) met in Cape Town last week, the first of two meetings taking place in 2024.
The committee was generously hosted by the SA20 league and its commissioner and WCC committee member, Graeme Smith, at one of the competition’s final group games at Newlands, following two days of meetings. Members of the committee also visited the Catch Trust cricket programme in Khayelitsha, an MCC Foundation-partnered initiative that features South Africa’s first artificial township cricket field, providing local children with facilities and coaching.
The meeting occurred in the immediate aftermath of two fantastic men’s Test matches played in Brisbane and Hyderabad, which excited supporters of the Test match format, yet also left them ruing the absence of a possible third match decider in the Australia v West Indies two match series. In support of the thrilling Test cricket currently being played and the importance of sustaining the traditional format of the game, the WCC recommends men’s Test series be played across a minimum of three matches from the next ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) from 2028 onwards.
The WCC has long understood that the record media rights deal negotiated for broadcasting ICC events from 2024-2027 has delivered global cricket a generational opportunity over the upcoming four-year period. However, what has also become clear is that, despite this significant capital injection, many are doubting if it will deliver tangible universal gain. Whilst some have prospered, many full and associate members are clearly struggling.
This gap is growing and if not addressed will affect the playing and, perhaps more importantly, the development programmes of the less-affluent, perhaps irrevocably, leading to a greater disparity of competitiveness. The WCC feels the ICC full member nations should take a more collegial approach to ensure that this period concludes with the global game in the strongest possible health.
With its short-term financial certainty guaranteed, full and associate members will have budgeted for stable distributions until the end of the current cycle. However, beyond this expiry the game will likely face fresh challenges to sustain this level of investment, in what is expected to be a more constrained media rights market.
As a consequence of these impending challenges, the global game now needs to be prudent with its spending in order to prioritise the advancement of current strategic objectives, whilst future-proofing the game’s growth targets and financial health.
The WCC questioned whether enough of this new revenue has been directly apportioned to strategic growth imperatives. Whilst the committee was delighted to read of the ICC decision to implement a strategic fund at its July 2023 meeting and applauds the full members for their vision, concern was raised at the time about whether women’s cricket specifically, at both competition and development levels and given its strategic importance to the game’s growth, was receiving sufficient funding across the board.
The committee reiterates its call upon ICC full member nations to now ring-fence a significant amount from their enhanced four-year ICC distributions to support the growth of women’s cricket.
Beyond the expiry of this current funding cycle, the committee also recommends greater accountability of general distributions allocated directly to full member nations is implemented, to ensure that future core funding is tagged for specific strategic purposes.
New growth markets
The game owes a debt of gratitude to India, with its insatiable thirst for cricket driving the wealth in the global game. However, this reliance upon India belies the fact that the game needs to identify new markets to ensure its global growth, at a time when media rights beyond the current cycle are by no means guaranteed.
With this uncertainty identified and on the back of the momentum built through this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the USA and Caribbean and the build up to the 2028 Olympics in the USA, the acceleration of the USA as a growth market for cricket would seem a natural consideration.
Revenue sharing model for tours
The WCC has long been aware of the game’s global economics being heavily imbalanced and detrimental to touring teams who bear the cost of travel, whilst all revenue is retained by the host body based upon a historical expectation of ‘quid pro quo’ touring arrangements. With evidence emerging of this now creating inequalities the committee calls for this model to be reconsidered, with analysis to be conducted on the impact of home bodies absorbing these touring team costs as a way of redistributing income and adding greater context to all future bilateral cricket. This should form part of a broader audit of the current costs of the international game called for following the previous WCC meeting in July 2023.
The committee also feels the imbalance of the current FTP unfairly impacts some nations by restricting where valuable content can be played in calendar windows. From the commencement of the next cycle in 2028, it would be preferable for a more equitable split of matches to provide a more balanced opportunity for nations to access key dates and opposition.
UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework
The WCC heard updates of progress made since its last meeting at Lord’s in July 2023, when Pat Cummins joined to discuss the importance of cricketing nations joining the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework. In October 2022, MCC became a signatory of the Framework, which aims at supporting and guiding sports clubs/bodies in achieving global climate change goals.
The committee was pleased to observe several initiatives which have been implemented since that moment, including more cricketing bodies joining the framework such as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and reiterates its stance for more home boards to follow suit.
"we believe the suggestions set out in these statements are the right way forward"
Kumar Sangakkara, Chair of WCC, said: “It’s time for courageous leadership and a united vision for the global game. Whilst the opportunities for cricket are enormous, the challenges are equally great and there must be stronger sense of collegiality amongst full members and all stakeholders for cricket to thrive.
“MCC’s new event, World Cricket Connects, has been proposed as an opportunity for the most prominent thinkers and influencers in the global game to unite and reflect on the current state of play and openly debate the possibilities for all to benefit and move the game forward.
“The WCC is positive about what can be achieved for the good of the game, but there must be no further delay, and we believe the suggestions set out in these statements are the right way forward.”
The full list of committee members is as follows with MCC President, Mark Nicholas, also in attendance for the meeting:
Kumar Sangakkara - Chair
World Cricket Committee