OCCUPY LORD’S

December 18, 2021

Whilst I was lost in Lisbon I found a whole bunch of unwashed people sitting in front of some big old building. At first it seemed too random a place to be occupied, but after a quick look at their shoddily drawn 99% signs, it was clear I had walked into the small, smelly and shabby Occupy Lisbon group. These people believe that by not washing and stinking out the people in power, they will abolish capitalism. Maybe they will, deodorant sales certainly seemed low in that area.

Mind you, I can’t help but admire people who choose not to wash for political reasons. Even if beating a system probably requires more than a twitter hash tag and sitting out the front of buildings. Things like guns and pitchforks, or those guns with stabby bits on the end, might help too.

Cricket is also run by the 1%. It’s about as far from as democratic utopia as you can get. The decisions in cricket aren’t made by democratic organisations, they are made by earnest power hungry administrators, shady former politicians and the TV network executives. There are good eggs in this group as well, but they don’t act for us or have our best intentions at heart. As fans we don’t vote, or generally have any say, the best we can do is ignore a series we think of as meaningless. If the horrific re-animation of the Champions Trophy has proven anything, it’s that even our global cricket fan indifference can’t effect Cricket’s 1%.

The ICC, cricket’s United Nations, is made up of a Eunuch like governing body and the individual cricket boards. Those boards are chronically indecisive, occasionally corrupt and tragically incompetent. Their latest world cup backflip shows that this is not an evil organisation intent on squeezing every last dollar out of cricket, but a disorganized group of people who are lost, out of their depth or caught up in petty feuds.

Ofcourse, I’ll still watch the Champions Trophy. A tournament that I openly despise, because while I want cricket to have better governance, or actual governance, I’d watch a tournament staged by Rupert Murdoch featuring spoilt rich children of American millionaires forced to play a community service match on the road into Auschwitz, you know, if it were televised.

I realise that makes me sound like the protester who argues against the WTO before using the McDonald’s drive thru. But I’m a cricket fan, and this is my sickness. I pay my TV subscription, wear more than a few replica shirts, have memberships to cricket grounds, and, before some boards let me into their grounds, paid to watch cricket on four continents.

And as a paying fan I have several grievances with how cricket has been run by those in charge.

Cricket Australia have finally joined the franchise T20 bandwagon, allowing overseas investment even though their own review suggested this was a mistake. Last year they completely overhauled one day domestic cricket in such an odd way that it lasted one season in that format. They picked John Howard as their next ICC president even though New Zealand had a man in mind and knowing that John Howard’s previous political record might mean that a fairly easy appointment would never go through. And right now they are censoring Simon Katich for talking about what he believes the reason for him not playing for Australia.

In some ways the ECB is a model of competence in modern times. They sell out their international matches, have fans who actually watch all forms of their domestic cricket, and look after their women’s cricketers like no one else. Ofcourse just below that exterior is their ill thought out deal with Allan Stanford. The ECB’s deal with SKY is a financial windfall, but in a country where cricket has always been seen as an upper class game, is it a good idea to keep the game away from free to air TV and new audiences? And why hasn’t England pushed for Ireland to be a Test playing nation, is it easier to not push and poach their best players?

The BCCI are seen as the cricket world’s big evil empire, and anything I write in this paragraph will annoy everyone. But forget about the BCCI being evil, and think of them more as a group of often-incompetent infighters who don’t seem to agree with each other all that often, let alone anyone else. They ban some media from their grounds, and give others contracts stating what they can or can’t say. Rather than relying on creating a better tournament than the ICL, they used their muscle to crush it and the players who participated in it. Their players are shipped around the world like expendable commodities when it suits the BCCI, or banned from competing in certain competitions on a whim. This is as far from an evil organisation as it is from a unified one, but in either case it’s far from looking out for Indian cricket.

Cricket New Zealand don’t get much more than local press. Yet, perhaps they should. This is a group who use capital letters when referring to BLACKCAPS in print as a bizarre and migraine inducing marketing tool. They very nearly ended the career of their most devastating cricketer of this generation, Shane Bond, when they told him it was ok to sign a contract before then changing their mind and banning him. Of very recent times they have got involved with a cricket board poorly run that even the ICC had to deregister them once, and will shortly be deregistered again by the look of their recent activities. The joint USA Cricket Association and NZC T20 cricket competition shows us that cricket will do almost anything to try and pry open the American market.

Pakistan Cricket Board have finally ousted Ijaz Butt from their head offices, but what damage has he left behind. Intikhab Alam called the players mentally retarded and suggested they were not toilet trained. Yet under his watch these special needs cricketers managed to group together to plan on fixing key elements of the cricket without the PCB stopping them. One of their players trusted them so little he fled mid tour. Another had a personal medical condition fed to the media. They were in charge when players and officials were shot. And these are just the instances I can remember off the top of my head. This is a Cricket Board that gets to vote on the future of our game.

The Sri Lankan Cricket Board lost 20 million dollars after the world cup. So they had an audit. Then they lost the disk with the audit on it. There seems to have been no back up. Either this is a corrupt cricket organisation, or a comically poor one. This year saw Sri Lankan cricket used for political points scoring as Sanath Jayasuriya was given a bizarre send off after his retirement. You can’t get much more political than letting your politicians play in your national side. This was followed by Kumar Sangakkara giving the Spirit of cricket lecture and choosing his words as wisely as he could. You don’t have to look too far between the lines to see how disappointed he is with cricket in his country.

Cricket South Africa is currently in the middle of corruption allegations on an almost daily basis. Money seems to be going missing, and accusations are being flung at the CSA all the time. Far right supremacists who troll on the Internet are using this as proof that government officials are mismanaging the countries resources for their own gain. It’s hard to see how greedy cricket for are claiming this is a black thing, unsurprisingly. While CSA might have some serious problems, greed trumps race in all situations, as a certain disgraced South African captain let us see. On top of that South Africa seem intent on playing the smallest Test series possible, two against Australia, often two against India, and now only three against England, but as long as their share in the Champions League is ok, who cares.

The West Indies Cricket Board is currently asking for Chris Gayle to apologise. But have they apologised for their board members using funds for burger king and TGIF dinners? Have they apologised for unleashing Allan Stanford onto the game? For the debacle that is the Sir Viv Richards stadium? Making their players travel to Durham at last minutes notice for an abridged Test series? Using strike breakers? Or letting key players pay their own physio bills while under contract. Perhaps Chris Gayle was wrong to say what he said about Ottis Gibson, but where are the WICB apologies, we’re are they being held accountable for their actions?

Then there is Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, two young test countries who are trying to overcome huge hardships to even make it at the elite level. One is held back by a country with little resources, they other is pushed forward by politicians. These are two countries I love watching play cricket, but I’d be lying if I thought there cricket was in the best hands.

So what did these associations do when they came together, they made a decision to isolate the top nations from the minnows in the next world cup. This came about not from planning, development and wisdom, but on a whim from two countries who liked the idea of a shorter more exclusive world cup and suggested it. Shortly after, with what insiders say was not even a vote and no vocal opposition from the few minnows lucky enough to get an invitation, the World Cup had been made into an exclusive member’s only club that ignored your ICC world ranking.

Then we the fans made some noise. It wasn’t an organised effort, or a global uprising, there were no pitchforks or gatherings outside cricket grounds. It was just people saying online, “Hey, you know what, we think sides should at least get their chance to qualify in a world cup.” and then the ICC did some pretty back peddling, and the world cup was changed again. Perhaps it wasn’t a victory of the fans, and maybe someone in the ICC, Sharad Pawar maybe, just looked at the proposal and thought it looked kinda stupid.

I hoped it was a moment of clarity, sadly, the ICC have now sat back and watched the Test cricket championship die so a tournament absolutely no one on earth has ever cared about can be brought back. The Champion Trophy coming back is not a victory for anything other than confused bumbling. The ICC allowing this look like a far less cuter version of Wile E. Coyote.

Cricket could not be further from our hands now were it given back to the Gentleman and Lord’s.

Maybe it’s time cricket’s 99% had more say. Maybe it’s time we Occupy Lord’s. Let us show those in charge know that we are the people who finance this game, and our voices should be heard. Sure Lord’s isn’t really the ICC home anymore, that’s now nestled in cricket’s heartland, but it’s the ground that calls itself the home of cricket, and it’s a far more grand statement than occupying some soulless building in a non cricket loving country.

However, the good news is you don’t have to travel down to St John’s Wood with your sleeping bag, a few tins of fair trade baked bins and a guitar you can’t play. You can just email the ICC’s independent governance review here governance.review.icc@uk.pwc.com

We can all sit around with our friends lazily whining about the abominable job the ICC has done to run cricket, or we can type down our thoughts on just what we think they should be doing. We can ask for minutes of their meetings to be made public. We can ask for a fans associations to be allowed to represent the fans. We can mention that the world cup is for the world. We can tell them the true marketing value of Tests. And we can remind them that this is a game that people only make money from this game because of our love for it.

Sure, this could be a waste of time, and even your best suggestions could end as little more than an automatic reply. But I’m not asking you to recite Woody Guthrie lyrics at 3AM, I’m just asking for you to put your best suggestions into an email before the 9th of December and press send. It will mean that when your suggestion is overlooked you can rightfully scoff and feel morally superior as cricket continues to stumble into its way into an uncomfortable and hostile future.