Friday, 29 March 2013

The new fans and the burden of expectations.

Fans are always a pleasure in sports. The dynamism of sports is driven by fans itself because they instill energy in the sports and more importantly money to keep the sport alive. Cricket also has it's share of fans.  India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies and to some extent in teams like Australia, England (Remember Barmy Army) are the teams with the solid fan base behind them and their opinion cannot be ignored. Perhaps Indian team would be the team with 1.2 Billion as the largest number of fans behind a team.

Cricket in Associate world is not as lucky as most test teams. Most of the multinational tournaments happen in front of empty grounds. But this is not the case everywhere. A typical match in Nepal, Afghanistan will get ten of thousands of people to the ground. It would get an decent gathering at places like Ireland or Scotland.

Here in Associate in the country of highest mountains, the fans have started a commendable task as big as everest itself. The fans were always active here. Infact when I started following Associate Cricket it was a website dedicated to Nepal cricket ( A real rare at that time) that got my interest. Then the fans had the biggest cricket group and fan pages on facebook, discussing about Nepal cricket and did not discard the support even at tough times like when the team got stuck in Div 4. They all had a belief ( Still have the Belief) that team is meant for something higher and would soon be joining the big boys.

Then this year came div 4 and the team had a cent percent record here and returned to streets filled with fans. This is the time when few die hard fans came together to form a fan club. One of them my real good friend (Birat Raya) along with others went from post to poll to get an official nod for the fans club and was successful. This I believe after present coach Pubudu is the most important development for Nepal Cricket

Fans Club around the world play an important role. In some sports the member of fan clubs are part of board of teams to represent the fan's point of view while making decisions and also get teams to identify talent from Grass root levels.

The Nepal Cricket Fan Club (NCFC) is already getting resounding support. As a first step they got an electronic scoreboard installed in the ground. Then in this week came an important landmark "" their exclusive fan club page. I liked the name when about a year ago when Birat bounced it off to me.
Nepal has a huge fan base
However these are just small steps in the long journey the club needs to go for. I would list down few steps the club should aspire as part of their journey

1. Written Constitution and a Democratic Institution
An important part of a young organisation is defining a constitution that clearly helps it define the vision, mission and the path that will be taken by the organisation. Defining a constitution also ensures that it builds in transparency and trust of the fans who will be pinning their hopes on the club

Being democratic is another part of being transparent. However a person may love a thing but it is the critics that makes the best out of him. The Iranian King loved the country and wanted to make it a superpower but still was thrown out in a revolution because there was no democracy to let off the steam. An election will keep bringing in new set of people who will bring in new ideas

2. Permanent Face- Salaried Employs
In any successful country or company there are always a permanent face and a new face that keep coming. Like in democratic countries the Politicians are the new face and Bureaucrats are the permanent face. This helps in bringing the stable face for organisation. Even in private companies in sales they have their employs at location as new faces and distributors as the constant faces.
I am jumping the gun but when things get stabilized then NCFC should definitely have some central and regional salaried representatives.

3. Nominal Paid Membership
There is a saying "There are no free lunches in the world". NCFC surely needs loads of members but it should keep a nominal fee for membership. I am not saying something like Rs 1000 a month but it might be token like Rs 100/year
Why because it will bring in 2 benefits- Firstly it would bring in seriousness of members who would now have stakes in the organisation and would force it to be accountable and secondly it would bring in a source of income for NCFC

4. Conducting Regional Tournaments
This would be the real and most important contribution to cricket. NCFC should have conduct these tournaments across the country where it will make teams from the rural to come out and unearth the raw talent. Then they could identify the potential talent and bring them into contact with coaches and selectors to unearth the best of them. I always believe that Nepal Cricket team does not represent the best XI. According to me there surely are many players who will be better than some in the team
We must remember that Pakistan team always brought in pacers who belonged to poor families and did not know English. There were the most lethal lot. India came out much stronger when players from smaller cities started coming in like the present captain Dhoni

5. Supporting the players for specialized training
Although this is the job of CAN, but we know that finances can be a constraint for CAN. Here NCFC can really step up and contribute. It has already done the support like it already did for sending 2 players to Sri Lanka.  

Personally I am very positive for NCFC as I know some of the die hard Nepal cricket lovers like Birat Raya, Anna Bhola have taken the realm of the organisation. I am really hopeful and hope that Nepal team would be joining the big boys and the Rhino Army would be supporting their team in T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

A better way of Funding Required for ICC?

Funding surely is a tricky business for ICC members. Baring a handful of about 6 out of 106 members, the rest 100 are solely dependent on ICC funding.

The situation becomes even more critical when we know that 70% of Funding is due to 1 country and next 20% is due to 2 countries. Hence how much funding is dependent on what type of a member a country is (Test, Associate or Affiliate), additionally for Associates what is your performance is (ODI Status (6 Teams), High Performance Program (4 Teams) and Rest). Besides this finally which region a member belongs to also means different funding for members. There are 5 regions of ICC- Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and East Asia Pacific. Belonging to Asia means most funding and most tournaments as Asia CC get's around half of ICC Development fund and other half is distributed amongst the other 4 Regions.

This means a Test Nation (10 Teams) get roughly 7.5 M$ / Year, while the 6 ODI nations get 0.65M$, 4 HPP members get 0.4 M$, 27 balance Associates get .16 M$ and the 59 Affiliate get miserly 0.015 M$ from ICC. The region funding varies and it mostly covers cost of tournaments.

So this means a country such big as Indonesia with a population of over 220M  get's roughly 30,000$ has to develop it's cricket, take the team for ICC tournaments. It also means that a country of Bermuda with a population with 60,000 and Nepal with a population of 40M get the same funding of 0.1 M$ from ICC.

Also when a Associate member looses the performance based funding it can have major consequences. Uganda when lost it's HPP membership it meant Uganda Cricket Association had to end central contracts with whole teams as it could no longer afford it. And this happened when Uganda lost a match to PNG by just 1 run and that run cost them roughly 240,000$ and entire team's salary

If we try to understand why ICC formed such funding, it was because it was only in last 15 years they expanded and tripled their membership. At that time they were for a standardized approach for membership as it did not have expertize to manage the critical aspect.

On top of that as Cricket is not an Olympics sport, this means that Government's are not interesting in funding the sport.

ICC has recently made some changes. From 2013 Associate members instead of the fixed 0.16 M$ will start getting 0.1 M$ fixed and rest based on a scorecard. The ICC also has formed a TAPP funding where based on need as presented by various members ICC funding. Ireland, Scotland & Netherlands have got 1.5 M$ for 3 years based on this funding.

However now the time has come for a complete restructuring of Funding. The funding should be based on certain criteria so that the development can be carried out in a much more sustainable way. The ICC needs to take care on few points

1. Performance of Board
ICC needs to define performance parameters for all it's members like School & Junior Cricket Participation, Transparency in Operations and money, Government Support, Domestic Cricket Tournaments and Scorecard each of the boards. The more the Score more the ICC level of funding. This will means boards taking much more long term sustainable steps

2. Population and Area of Countries
Population and Area of countries have a deep impact of how funding can be utilized. USA and Bermuda may be both Associate members and presently should never get same funding (As is the case today). USA is a huge country with 315 M population and 9 M Sq Km area while Bermuda is just 0.06 M Population. So definitely these factors need to be considered while funding is given.

3. Performance of Team
The better the performance of team, the more exposure ICC needs to get for the team. Hence a Ireland should be given a chance to play more Test teams or their A teams and also go for a sustainable domestic first class tournaments.
The better teams need that extra thrust to make them more self sustaining for future and in long term releases more money for the next level of upcoming teams

4. Parachuted Funding
The case of Uganda where when they lost HPP membership the whole team was out of central contracts. When a team in it's bad days, the funding should go out in a Parachuted ways. Uganda which lost funding from 0.4 to 0.16 M$ in 1 year instead should have gone down in 3 years. That way the board can plan for a comeback. Now it become a double blow, the membership and also lot the funding.

5. Full Members to be brought in the funding plan
Presently all the funding rules are applicable only for Associate and Affiliate members. ICC should make the whole structure more open, where if Ireland perform well they should be able to play Test Matches and Zimbabwe may lose out. Also the difference of 7.5 M$ to 0.6 M$ should be removed.
 Yes ICC will need to support the full members for playing Test matches but this should not mean a 12.5 times difference of funding. The ICC should be transparent in why and how part of funding for each member

Most of these things were covered by Woolf's report. ICC instead of even discussing it has pushed it aside. If ICC has to move with times it will need to come out of the colonial elite mindset and in sync with modern methods. Hoping for the best.