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John W Pryor's Blog

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It's not about the money, forget about the price tag.

Friday March 25, 2011

In 2015 the CWC will be a ten-team competition. The ICC is keen to avoid meaningless mismatches between the some of the traditional cricketing powerhouses and the smaller emerging cricketing nations, or so they say. The World T20 competition is the medium that the ICC will now use to “integrate” the emerging nations with the powerhouse nations.

Behind the scenes there is an ongoing power struggle for the control of world cricket between the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The ICC are the sports world governing body yet India contributes somewhere close to 70% of world cricket revenues.

In 2006 Forbes valued the BCCI at $1.5 billion; the ECB at $270 million and Cricket Australia at $225 million. That same year the ICC had revenues of $36 million made a loss of $3.5 million. The ICC business model is based on the events they hold during the year. One successful world cup can easily replenish and previous years losses, especially with the support of the lucrative Indian market. For this reason, the ICC effectively need BCCI buy in for any events they wish to run.

Ireland beating Pakistan was one of the major shocks of the 2007 CWC, which saw us take their place in the Super Eights phase of the competition. The other major shock, which in many ways a much more significant shock was when India’s position in the Super Eights phase went to Bangladesh. What was expected to be a high profile sell out between India and Pakistan turned out to be a much less attractive fixture between Ireland and Bangladesh. Advertisers weren’t happy. They had built their advertising strategies around Pakistan and India progressing to the next phase of the tournament. These strategies had to be completely reconfigured.

The BCCI run IPL starts a little less then a week after the current CWC finishes. What this means is that for the 2011 CWC the ICC is directly competing with the BCCI for a share of advertisers marketing budgets. This is a major reason for the change in the structure of the current CWC to a 14 team, two group competition.

The current structure is effectively rigged to ensure that what Ireland and Bangladesh achieved in 2007 cant happen again. It worked. It also means that if a “minnow” progressed, even at the expense of India, that advertisers would be guaranteed full audience engagement from the Indian TV audience for approximately 70% of the tournament compared to 40% of the 2007 tournament. A 10 team 2015 competition will guarantee full audience engagement for close to 90% of the total tournament duration. This is extremely attractive for advertisers, marketers, the ICC but not for the development of cricket.

The issue the ICC now face is how to select the 10 teams for 2015. Should it be the 10 full members? Should it be the top 10 ranked teams or should there be a qualification tournament?

I believe the ICC will have a qualifying tournament for the 2015 CWC. If they didn’t then the whole purpose of the ICC Trophy and the World Cricket League divisions would be completely undermined.

From here, it seems that the fairest thing to do is to have a qualifying tournament between the top three associate nations and the bottom three full nations, most likely Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the West Indies. This is a far from ideal scenario. As an Irish cricket fan I want to watch Ireland in the next tournament, I also want to watch Bangladesh, whose population of 165 million people are nearly all cricket fanatics. I also want to see Zimbabwe and the West Indies, it wouldn’t be a world cup without the West Indies!

I believe that a 12 team tournament is a much fairer structure for associate nations and one which solves all of the problems I have mentioned above. By including the top two associate nations the ICC could run a tournament with two groups of 6. The top team in each group could qualify directly to a semi final, the second and third place team would have to qualify for the semis via a quarter final. This would incentivize all teams to finish top of their group and would mean there will be no meaningless fixtures which is something which the ICC is keen to avoid.

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