Organisational structure and control for a new competition
The motivating thought behind our proposal for a new international club competition is the need to give the top players a greater stake in the game through higher salaries, comparable with other significant international sports. To do this competition between the clubs for the services of the players is essential, since this is the process by which salaries are bid up. The problem with Test Match cricket is that this competition is by definition absent- players play for their country.
Strong clubs must be run as commercial enterprises- they must have incentives to attract fans and generate revenues. Such a league might materialise through the actions of entrepreneurs not currently involved in the administration of cricket if the market is left to its own devices, just as World Series Cricket emerged as a natural reaction to the failure of international cricket to modernise in the 1970s. However, we think it would be better for cricket as a whole if the competition we envisage were introduced under the auspices of the governing bodies of cricket, in particular the ICC with the support of the national associations. There are several reasons for this:
An independently organised international club league might turn out to be very unbalanced. A degree of competitive balance is necessary to make an attractive competition, but the experience from other leagues shows that a strong central control of the league rules is necessary to ensure that such a balance is maintained. This leading role can be fulfilled by the ICC.
To ensure that salaries are in fact bid up through competition it will be necessary to prevent collusion among the owners. This protection can be provided through the sanction of the ICC. The ICC or its representatives might explicitly maintain rules such as a requirement that at least a certain percentage of each team should consist of foreign players, not least to ensure that that players from outside the countries possessing a team have an opportunity to play.
If the new competition were to sit comfortably beside the current structure of Test match cricket it would be necessary to co-ordinate time slots and so on. International soccer works well because, by and large, club soccer does not compete with the representative game due to the overall control of the national authorities.
We propose that the structure of the league should be as follows:
The Central Organisation (CO) should be appointed by the ICC to oversee the proposed World Cricket League (WCL). The functions of the CO are:
To manage the sale of franchises to business interests in the cities selected on the basis of providing a balanced competition
To oversee the sale of broadcast rights and co-ordinate promotional activities for the league (ensuring consistency in merchandising and so on). A significant fraction of these revenues to be allocated as a prize for the winning team, to provide high powered incentives for the participating teams.
To impose limited redistribution of income if a significant degree of competitive imbalance emerges. The right to tax on this basis must be strictly limited to some fraction of total revenues in order to ensure that franchise owners have the right incentive to maximise revenues.
To withdraw and reallocate franchises in clear cases of failure.
To determine the expansion of the league, either by the addition of new teams to the existing structure, or by the creation of a second division with promotion and relegation.
To ensure that the scheduling of the WCL does not interfere with the scheduling of Test Match cricket and, as far as is possible, domestic cricket competitions.
To limit the power of clubs to stockpile players- a roster limit of, say, 25 players, might be imposed.
Individual franchise owners will have the following rights:
To retain locally generated revenues (including ticket sales, local sponsorship deals, catering and so on) up to some agreed fraction of the total, probably in the region of 75%.
To hire players in the market subject to the constraint that at least a certain percentage of players are foreigners. Movements of players between teams to be fixed according to some transfer rules. A transfer window might apply, such that transfers cannot take place during the WCL season.
To negotiate match schedules with the CO.
We believe that this structure would balance the interests of the players, the national game, the international governing body and the interests of the newly created clubs, without damaging the incentives of the new clubs to create a competitive and attractive league.
Cricket is a popular sport, and therefore it has the potential to sustain a successful international circuit such as Test Match cricket as well as domestic competition. However, to realise its full potential requires a structure that draws money into the game. Test Match cricket cannot do this on its own, and we believe the gambling scandals that have been so damaging to the game’s reputation are simply a symptom of that failure. Rather than deal only with the symptoms, we propose a way of dealing with the underlying disease, which is the absence of a strong club competition which is a characteristic of all the successful team sports.
We suggest that a club competition limited to a select number of international locations could generate considerable fan interest. Were such a competition to be successful, it would result in increasing competition for player services, higher wages and ultimately give the players a greater personal stake in the future of the game. Moreover, we believe that an international club competition could prove a significant revenue generator for world cricket. In this paper we have suggested that in an ideal world such a competition would operate most efficiently if sanctioned and ultimately controlled by the ICC. However, if this does not happen, we also think it quite likely that such a competition would generate itself spontaneously.
With cricket in crisis, the ICC holds an effective mandate for reform. By introducing new forms of competition it may be able to wipe clean the taints of the past and strengthen existing forms such as Test cricket.
References Birley, D. (1999) A Social History of English Cricket, Aurum Press, London.
Bose, M. (2001) “A Game in Shame” in: G. Wright (ed) Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack 2001, John Wisden and Co, London, 17-28.
Craig, S. (2001) “It’s Not Cricket” History Today 51, 6, 40-41.
Central Bureau of Investigation (2000) Report on Cricket Match Fixing and Related Malpractices, New Delhi
Condon, Sir P. (2001) Report on Corruption in International Cricket, Anti-Corruption Unit, International Cricket Council, London.
King, Judge E. L. (2000) Commission of Inquiry into Match Fixing and Related Matters: Interim Report, Cape Town.
O’Regan, R. (1998) Player Conduct Inquiry Report, Australian Cricket Board, Jolimont, Victoria.
Qayyum, Justice M. M. (1998) Report of Judicial Commission Pakistan Cricket Board, Lahore.
1 Most team sports were not formally organised until the nineteenth century, while the rules of cricket were written down in 1744 (Birley 1999).
2 Condon (2001) points to a wide range of imaginative ways in which players have been alleged to have fixed occurrences within matches for betting purposes – including control of fielding positions, ends of the pitch from which bowling commences and so on.
3 If we take exclusion from the sport as the penalty then the bribe required to corrupt a player needs to make the expected utility under corruption no less than that under honesty. Excluding, for simplicity and without affecting the nature of the argument, considerations of shame and scruples we need (1-p)U(y+B)+pU(B)-U(y)=0 where y is sporting income, U(.) is utility, p is probability of detection and B is minimal bribe required. The standard assumption of risk aversion implies that B increases with y.
4 "Turnover in 1999 amounted to £83,7212,000 (1998 - £50,733,000) including £48,030,000 in respect of the 1999 World Cup (p.4)".
5 The England cricket captain is believed to earn a higher figure of around £250,000. By comparison the England soccer captain is thought to earn about £5m (though through his club salary rather than payments for his international role).
6 The meagreness of the sums allegedly paid to induce corrupt practice are continually striking – see, for example, Bose 2001.
7 There may be problems with existing broadcasting contracts. However if broadcasters agree that the reform will generate interest the rights to broadcast the new competition will be offer a profitable attraction.
8 This can be compared to the position in other sports such as football where international representative competitions, such as the World Cup or European Championship, mark an acknowledged high point in the game while most international competition remains at club level.
9 It is difficult to think of a Caribbean city which could support a team if a city-based structure were adopted. However, on a regional basis the idea would be more attractive, particularly if games played also in North America could attract support from the large expatriate Indian communities there.