ICC board meeting set to discuss India-Pakistan situation and the Afghanistan question
Afghanistan, the continuing complexities of India-Pakistan and a new revenue distribution model will all be on the agenda at what is shaping up to be a portentous ICC board meeting this weekend in Dubai.
The quarterly meeting, the first of this year, began on Thursday with the women’s cricket committee and the men’s committee on Friday. But all eyes will fall on the Chief Executives’ Committee (CEC) meeting on Saturday, before the ICC Board and Finance & Commercial Affairs (F&CA) committee meet over Sunday and Monday.
It is in and around the sidelines of those meetings that the most pressing topics will be discussed:
The ICC’s working group on Afghanistan will present an update to the ICC board on the situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power in the country in August 2021. Imran Khwaja, the ICC’s deputy chair and head of the working group, has met with officials from the ACB and Taliban in Doha twice since November. They’ve been provided assurances that the government has not interfered in cricket affairs, but also acknowledge that any women’s cricket while the Taliban are in power is near impossible.
Even the ICC management is desperate to act, not least since some Afghan women cricketers reached out to them. There has been informal talk of funding a women’s team outside of Afghanistan and without implicit ACB approval. But the working group will make the board aware that such options could prove counterproductive, even dangerous, for those on the ground in the country. It is a tightrope, in not wanting to punish Afghanistan while also wanting some progress with the women’s game.
A new revenue distribution model
The F&CA will begin discussions on a new model to divvy up the ICC’s broadcast money (and commercial earnings) over the next rights cycle. It is not going to be a simple discussion – it wasn’t for the current cycle, where the rights were sold in 2014 for eight years as one bundle to one broadcaster, for approximately USD 2.1 billion.
So, much more money, but also more challenges in distributing it. The F&CA is headed by the BCCI secretary Jay Shah and given that the India market now has a tangible separate value, it will only strengthen the longstanding BCCI belief that they should receive a lion’s share of it. Smaller members are also wanting enhanced shares, especially as they ended up with less than the expected amounts from the last cycle after ICC projections fell slightly short.
“We have complex issues on hand but for me when I go to the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) and ICC meetings I have kept all options open for us and we have to take a clear position now,” said the PCB head Najam Sethi at a press conference earlier this week. That is in line with the PCB belief that the Asia Cup and ICC events are linked: if India refuse to play in Pakistan for the Asia Cup, what is the guarantee they visit for the ICC’s Champions Trophy in 2025?
That is the question the PCB will be raising this weekend, though it will do so with the wriggle room that ultimately a decision on whether Pakistan travels to India for a World Cup will be made by the Pakistan government. There were reports in Pakistan earlier this week that the government had refused PCB permission to send a team to India. But state officials indicated to ESPNcricinfo that not only had no such decision had been made but that it was far too early for them to be making it.
The Future-Tours Programme
A working group looking into current and future FTP bilateral planning arrangements will be ratified at the meeting.
Discussions over ICC constitutional reforms have been ongoing for years in what has been a thorny subject.
It seemed to gain momentum during meetings last year with informal discussions over several proposals, including a single tier of ICC membership and a push for more independents to sit on the governing body’s board.
Currently Indra Nooyi, chair Greg Barclay and ICC CEO Geoff Allardice are the only independent directors on the 18-person board. But board directors have been unable to get on the same page and no such proposal was tabled last year. Discussions are set to resume in Dubai.
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