Ontario Immigration and Citizenship Minister Mike Colle resigned on Thursday after Auditor General Jim McCarter issued a report condemning the lack of controls surrounding up to $32 million (Canadian) grants issued in the last two years.
Cricket does not often reach the front page in Canada but it features prominently on Friday July 27, 2007. The 'Toronto Star' features Colle and Provincial Premier Dalton McGuinty holding cricket bats. A picture taken by Ron Fanfair of the Afro-Caribbean orientated 'Share' newspaper, a long-time follower of the Canadian cricket scene.
The $1 million grant to the Ontario Cricket Association announced at the dinner apparently comes in for special comment in the report. The OCA had asked for $150,000 but received $1 million. This is highlighted in at least the Star, Sun, Globe and Mail, and Metro today.
Reports indicate Colle believed cricket needed more funding, especially in the context of an upcoming Cricket World Cup and the lack of agreement from the Federal Government to provide sponsorship. Indeed, at the St Lucia night dinner in October, Colle challenged the Federal Government to multiply by 20 the grant the Ontario Government had given to cricket.
Colle was present in St Lucia for at least one of Canada's World Cup matches, but had to return to Toronto for an important vote in the Ontario Legislature.
Canadian Cricket Association President Ben Sennik has publicly commented on his role in landing the $1 million from the Ontario Government. His most recent remarks on the CCA's role in landing this money are found on the West Indies Cricket Board web-site.
The Auditor General wrote: "We found no evidence that any organization received a grant because it had political ties. However, in some cases, those ties did exist, and when this is combined with a process lacking openness and most of the normal accountability controls, it can create the perception of favouritism if the organization ends up obtaining a grant.
There are five associations or leagues affiliated to the Ontario Cricket Association. $1 million seemed a lot to Canadian cricket given the lack of previous sponsorships, but if you look at the real needs - grass wickets, grass nets, proper indoor facilities for winter practices and development - that money would not go a long way. You don't get much more than a couple of grass nets for $30,000, based on some of my discussions. Then it costs money to maintain them.
Coaching, umpiring and scoring and administrative infrastructures are needed, as is some semblance of corporate, media and public relations at most levels in Canadian cricket. A chance of community channel TV coverage for at least one of the recent Canadian international matches went begging.
The media and marketing release for the recent Canadian Colleges and Universities championships had a lot of hype. OMNI tv turned up one day.
ATN (Asian Television Network), described as 'the Official Broadcast Media Sponsor" (of the CCA) in the Canada report in the "ICC Development Program Americas 2006-2007 Annual Report" was not seen at any of the matches with the Dutch, the United Arab Emirates or the Universities and Colleges tournament.
Some of my match reports went out to more contacts (domestic and overseas) than there were spectators at this summer's senior men's international matches. Canadian cricket could, and should be, in a 'Golden Age.' It just needs the right people to run it. It is time to end the era of 'Money for nothing and your chips for free' as the theme song of some of those running the game.
And to be fair, not all the issues are solely the CCA's problem, but there is little evidence of a constructive approach to dealing with common leading ICC Associates' issues. Just throwing arms or words into the air and waiting for the magic to happen. Pragmatism and common sense solutions are needed. Let's not try to go down the road of planning, strategy, marketing and financial planning.
At least someone has stepped in to help the Under-19's prepare for the World Cup qualifier in August. And someone else stepped in to ensure relationships were in place with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, UNICEF and various AIDS-related organizations before the Universities and Colleges tournament ended. Hence some of the decorations at the ground.