Uncertainty in commercial broadcast, sponsorship hurting CWI finances the most- Skerritt

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Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt feels an already problematic cash situation for Cricket West Indies has turned ‘dramatically worse’ in the COVID-19 enforced break.

The CWI boss recently came up with 16-point plan during the 20th annual Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture titled ‘Reforming Cricket West Indies for improved on-field results’.

In an exclusive chat with Cricbuzz, Skerritt shed light on his proposed plan, the challenges he’s facing as the CWI head in the middle of a pandemic, and more.

What has been the impact of the break forced by COVID-19 on WICB, financially?

The West Indies international cricket venues are spread across nine individual country destinations. The COVID-19 pandemic not only eliminated the possibility of spectator revenues, but it shut down all airports and seaports for several months and moving players and fans has been near impossible.

Regional movement of cricket teams is only just reemerging as a possibility, but will be at increased health safety and travel costs.

The biggest impact on CWI finances has been the uncertainty in the commercial broadcast and sponsorship markets, which halted the movement of nearly all commercial revenue, is in millions. This made an already problematic cash situation pre-COVID-19 dramatically worse.

What has been the impact of this pandemic and the break on West Indies in cricketing terms, at the domestic level and for the women’s game?

Generally speaking, the risk and extreme fear of local community spread of the virus caused local cricket to be paused for many months. CWI welcomed the opportunity to keep the previously scheduled UK tour alive because of the ongoing need for our elite players to earn a living, and to improve their game.

The quality of cricket and quarantine facilities in England provided a pioneering option for CWI to help restart world cricket through a postponed tour which had almost been cancelled. The ECB facilitated all of our COVID-19 related costs for travel and hosting such a large sized touring party. The restart of international cricket reminded us that we have to be positive and make things happen.

That is why we also jumped at the opportunity to add an unscheduled women’s tour of the UK. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused several months delay in implementing various programmes and leagues at both the local and regional levels.

What is the future course of action to make up for the losses – financially and in cricketing terms?

There is not much that can be done to make up for the lost time and fixtures. We are doing our best to add on as much postponed activity as we can from 2020 to an already packed 2021 fixtures list.

Financially we have to continue tightening the proverbial belt and be smart with expenditure and investment decisions.

What does Greg Barclay’s appointment as ICC chairman mean to West Indies cricket? What are CWI’s expectations from the new ICC chairman?

Greg is starting his new ICC Chairmanship role with the goodwill of most of the cricketing world behind him, including from CWI. I believe he understands the urgent need for ICC reform, and I sense that the ICC Directors will unite behind him.

West Indies Head Coach Phil Simmons addressing players during a net session (Photo: CWI Media)

When do you think it will be feasible for teams to tour the West Indies? What are the challenges currently for West Indies to be hosting international teams?

We are about to publish a revised 2021 international fixtures plan which anticipates our hosting of international tours to recommence by the end of February. We are optimistic, but will also have to be flexible as the situation changes.

You came out with a 16-point plan to rescue West Indies cricket while speaking on the topic “Reforming Cricket West Indies for Improved On-field Results” during the 20th annual Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture. Do you feel it is achievable?

I believe you are referring to my listing of needed and expected outcomes for CWI reform. I was describing a preferred future that would not be achieved overnight, but can result if and when we reform the way we operate on all CWI fronts, including at the territorial boards. It amounts to creating and supporting a cricket system that will begin producing excellence on a sustainable basis.

You said that sticking to the “cricket first philosophy” and implementing the “West Indians first” will produce results. Can you explain where you want to lay your emphasis and why?

The new emphasis is for an integrated, transparent, and more cricket-centric approach to decision-making and problem-solving. We have been eliminating the knee-jerk, quick fix, and high-cost leadership style that dominated CWI up until recently.

We must also remove emotionally and politically motivated over-reach by non-executive Directors into the authority of the Executive Management who must be allowed to do what they are paid to do. My number one concern is the rebuilding of local and regional human capacity, of players and management, by empowering West Indians to take control of our own present and future.

You said that a modern fit-for-purpose corporate governance system, which is consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, equitable, and inclusive are best for best decision-making? Are you confident you can turn CWI into such an organization? What are the challenges that you are facing in implementing these elements?

This is not about what I can turn CWI into, as President. CWI will only become a better governed and smarter organization if we collectively achieve a more collaborative action of all shareholders and stakeholders.

Revenue is a huge short-term challenge for CWI, but the biggest ongoing challenge we face is the region-wide obsession with cricket politics and a reluctance to change our governance systems. Too much politics causes unnecessary distractions and threatens the urgent need for a more cricket-centric approach.

We should be spending less time and debate on how we perform during a tour, and making more investment in development and improvement in between tours. West Indies teams have dropped to the bottom of all ICC rankings because CWI has been more concerned about outputs than inputs.

A well-organized grassroots programme in every member territory, jointly funded by government, private sponsors and the local cricket association, with technical inputs and standards from CWI as needed is expected to develop your cricket. Do you feel it is feasible and what are the major constraints in implementing these plans?

The conversation about the responsibilities of all West Indies cricket stakeholders has begun. Our cricket will only move forward significantly with the input of all shareholders and stakeholders, especially governments.

There are several ministries of sports and tourism who are already showing renewed interest in West Indies cricket, but they need to come to the table more tangibly now. In spite of the major COVID-19 related fiscal situation that now prevails with our governments.

I believe it is becoming more and more feasible for us to get cricket, government and business leaders to sit together in order to generate the right initiatives for the future of West Indies cricket.

Why are you focusing on player remuneration and contractual system that rewards outstanding performance, recognizes future potential and frowns on mediocrity? What are you trying to say by stating that player welfare must also be at the foundation of such a remuneration system?

When I said that CWI needs reform on all fronts, it included the very basis on which we remunerate management, staff, players, and contracted suppliers. We need to better measure performance and output, eliminate mediocrity, and reward excellence wherever it exists.

Unfortunately, CWI has for too long had a culture of entitlement and over-spending on procurement of services and goods, without always doing enough to ensure a viable return on investment.

That culture is now being changed. At the same time, employee rights and rules must be transparent and be well respected. Our policies for selection, hiring and procurement in general, must be clarified for all concerned and players must never be penalized without due process. (Cricbuzz)

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