Woman President call heeded
Ger Siggins (CricketEurope
Ger Siggins called for a Cricket Ireland President this time last year. It seems that the powers that be heeded his cry, and Aideen Rice will take the prestigious position in 2018.
CricketEurope reproduces his column from April last year below:
APRIL 8TH 2016
It's time for a woman president
TWO weeks from now, in a hotel outside Dundalk, Dr Murray Power will hand over a trio of porcelain mugs to Henry Tighe to symbolise the transfer of the post of president of Cricket Ireland.
The position is a great honour, handed out annually to someone who has served the game well, either as player or, more frequently in recent years, as administrator.
Some of the finest men to wear the green shamrock have been president: legendary players such as Alec O’Riordan, Roy Torrens, Bob Lambert, Willie Andrews, George McVeagh, Jim Ganly, Donald Shearer, Noel Mahony, Stuart Pollock, Pat Dineen, Alfie Linehan and Dermott Monteith are among those to have been bestowed the greatest on-field and off-field honours of a cap and a blazer, although the last international to carry out the role was Roy Harrison in 2006.
The honour generally rotates between the three biggest provincial unions, although four of the last six presidents have been from the NCU, and Joe Doherty (2104) was the first from the north-west since Bob Kerr ten years before. In the last three decades only Eoin McCann has come from Munster.
It is a role best suited to someone who has retired from full-time work, but still has the vigour to complete the often arduous tasks associated with the role. In recent years that has meant an enormous travel programme – this year the Irish men, women and U19s all had global events in Asia which required the presence of the president in Bangladesh, Thailand and, for almost a month, India.
Robin Walsh was president in 2013-14, when he entertained readers with a fascinating diary which allowed daylight into often dusty corridors. His writings were later compiled into a booklet published by the Cricket Writers of Ireland and make an excellent primer for anyone interested in the role: Walsh’s travels that year took him all over Ireland, and the UK, and further afield to Netherlands, UAE, Trinidad, Jamaica, Bangladesh and Qatar.
Since the ICU was rebranded as Cricket Ireland, the perestroika that followed further diminished the powers of the role. Joe Doherty, who as a long-serving administrator helped in this change and later became CI President in 2014, explains the role: “The president is ex-officio on all committees that he cares to attend, although in reality he only comes to the Board and occasionally the Cricket Committee in my experience.
“In all my time at ICU (since 1999), he never had any executive powers and definitely no vote, either at the old Executive Committee or, since 2008, the Board. The newly-defined structure of the ICU Board, trading as Cricket Ireland, certainly doesn't provide for any operational or executive powers for the President, which would be in line with common corporate practice in the Western world.”
The role is thus largely ceremonial, with a requirement to be nice to visiting dignitaries and remain sober in the sponsors’ free bar. It never had much power – back in the 1980s one president told me, bitterly, that the one-year term was introduced to ensure no real initiatives could be undertaken, thus threatening the real powerbase of Irish Cricket Union hon sec.
So when Henry Tighe slips on that blue blazer in the (Dickson?) Butler Cabin on April 24, he will be the 75th man to do so since the Irish Cricket Union was formally constituted in 1924.
On the evidence of his tireless and ground-breaking work as the (two-year) president of Cricket Leinster, Henry will be an excellent president of Cricket Ireland. But the most damning word in that last paragraph is the one that comes after “75th”.
Cricket Ireland has governed the sport for both sexes since 2003, although few women have ascended to positions of power, as Cecelia Joyce pointed out in a Sunday Independent interview during the recent World Twenty20.
“Cricket Ireland’s governance is not compliant with best practice internationally”, she said. “If you were in the UK you couldn’t get away with a board of ten men and get the funding you want. They need more women on the board, and they need a coaching pathway for women. But they’re looking at it – I’m not really criticising them as they are trying to do the best they can.”
Many clubs, particularly in Leinster, have seen women take leading roles. Mary Sharp has been Honorary Secretary of the LCU since 2001, while Phoenix, Railway Union, Pembroke and YMCA have had or currently have women presidents. Rush, Trinity and Clontarf have also seen women in important posts, and there may be others, especially in the other unions. So what’s wrong with Cricket Ireland?
It has been governing women’s cricket for 13 years now, and yet no woman has been deemed worthy of this role or, I understand, even considered. And there are many candidates from the ranks of distinguished players or administrators. Whether they would want it or not is unknown, and the fact that women's cricket was only revived in the mid-1970s means few have reached retirement yet. But there is little doubt that the following would be perfectly suited to the job and would bring something extra to the role:
• Siobhan McBennett (Rush) and Elaine Coburn (Railway) were active in the IWCU at the time of the amalgamation and have been active in their clubs since.
• Former players such as Sandra Dawson, Miriam Grealey, Annie Linehan and Heather Whelan would be excellent presidents.
• Tireless club workers such as Stella Downes (Clontarf), Catherine Goodman (Leinster), Janice Walsh (Pembroke), Judy Cohen (Railway), Aideen Rice (YMCA) and Ursula Lewis (Merrion) should also be considered for their services to the sport.
It’s been too long, Cricket Ireland. In 12 months from now, Henry Tighe should be handing over those mugs to a woman.