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“Well, in the absence of secured payment structure, top players have been forced to desert their national teams, leading to a less competitive international structure in the cricketing world”

Last year, when the International Cricket Council (ICC) did away with the ‘Big Three’ financial model and adopted the new revenue-sharing policy, it seemed we were somewhat at a levelled field. However, in a recent development, in the upcoming Annual Conference of ICC which starts on Thursday in Dublin, Cricket West Indies (CWI) will push for a more equitable distribution of ICC revenues in order to safeguard the long-term future of the game.

According to a CWI authorised paper, named “Economics of Cricket” a bunch of brand new proposals will be up for consideration. It has been reported that the paper argues in favour of more even-handed distribution of ICC funds, a wider spread of hosts and participating teams in global events, pooled broadcast rights as well as the sharing of bilateral-series revenues between home and away boards.

The CWI report further claims that the current structure of international cricket is “loaded in favour of wealthier nations”, especially India, England, and Australia. And this scenario has been created majorly due to the burgeoning wealth gap between the ‘Big Three’ and other Test playing countries.

For example, according to the current fund-sharing model of ICC, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will is set to receive USD 405 million and the ECB USD 139 million for the 2016-23 cycle. Whereas each of Cricket Australia, Cricket South Africa, Pakistan Cricket Board, New Zealand Cricket, Sri Lanka Cricket, Cricket West Indies and Bangladesh Cricket Board will receive $128 million. The rest amount of USD 240 million will be distributed amongst the Associates and Affiliates.

Remember, along with the ICC funds, the ‘Big Three’ boards also have lucrative broadcasting rights, which is their primary source of revenue. However, the media rights of other full members are financially far less productive. Hence these other boards generate a far lesser amount, resulting in a direct effect in the growth of the game. In fact, on numerous occasions, the Zimbabwe and West Indies boards have even failed to pay the salary of its players and support staffs. This shows that the revenue these boards earn is not even sustainable.

Well, in the absence of secured payment structure, top players have been forced to desert their national teams, leading to a less competitive international structure in the cricketing world.

Hence, CWI cautions that if immediate steps are not taken to address this financial gap between ‘Big Three’ and other nine Test-playing nations, as a product international cricket will be devalued and cash-rich domestic T20 leagues will emerge as dominating force.

Why should ‘Big Three’ consider CWI’s proposal?

For BCCI, ECB and CA a change in the fund distribution model will cause financial losses. Well, despite that the author believes ‘Big Three’ should consider CWI’s proposal. And let me tell you, by doing that, they will safeguard their own interest.

For example, series after series, India can’t only play against Australia and England. They have to take on the other full members. And in presence of this unhealthy wealth gap, the quality, as well as the competitiveness of these teams, are bound to be affected, which will result in one-sided fixtures. Well, in the long run, neither the fans or the broadcasters and sponsors would be interested to invest their time and money in such a less competitive scenario.

In hindsight, if the ‘Big Three’ agrees to the CWI model of revenue sharing through pooled broadcasting rights and 20 percent share in domestic rights, it will only have a “negligible effect” in their revenue generation (thanks to the cash-rich deals these three boards already have with the broadcasters) but for the other countries the extra fund can “make a real difference”.

The smaller boards, especially Bangladesh, Ireland and Afghanistan can invest more in grassroots and infrastructure development to nurture new talents. The boards of South Africa, Zimbabwe and West Indies will be in a position to stop their players from moving to other countries or taking premature retirements whereas New Zealand can host more Test matches at home. Overall, the competitive balance in international cricket will be restored.

Well, here comes a million dollar question.

Will the likes of BCCI, ECB and CA agree to make this minor financial sacrifice for the long-term gain, if the situation arises?

Highly unlikely.

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