The current impasse between the West Indies Cricket Board and CARICOM Heads of Government over the state of West Indies cricket casts the spotlight on issues of corporate and public governance. We respond to some concerns raised in the media on governance in West Indian cricket by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados and member of CARICOM.
Mr Stuart questioned the lack of corporate governance exhibited by the WICB and the need for the board to show accountability. His comments came on the heels of the CARICOM-convened Eudine Barriteau-led committee on governance in West Indian cricket, a report submitted in October/November, 2015. The committee reported that the governance structure was obsolete and antiquated.
To date, the WICB responded by putting forward its separate proposals and a rejection of the Barriteau Committee’s recommendations. WICB’s position is at odds with the committee and seems to give the impression the committee’s conclusions were unfounded and unwarranted. We can only assume that, as has been done in the past, the WICB board feels there should be no political interference.
We take umbrage with this perceived belief that the CARICOM governments should not be meddling with the WICB’s affairs.
This is not the first time the lack of corporate governance by the WICB was addressed. The problems of accountability and transparency were previously highlighted in the Patterson Report and are yet to be resolved. In fact, these issues were further magnified and related concerns identified in the recent Barriteau Report.
In addition, the call from CARICOM Heads of Government for a meeting to discuss these outstanding issues was misconstrued as political interference and met with a callous response by the WICB, which seems to suggest the WICB knows how to solve its own problems.
This dismissive action prompted the Heads of Government to refer the matter to the International Cricket Council for deliberation.
Let us look at the state of play at the moment. West Indies cricket is at an all-time low with the senior Test and One-Day teams ranked quite low in international ratings. We just received a glimmer of hope with the junior team winning a major championship recently. The WICB is facing a legal battle with a lawsuit by the Indian Cricket Board for breach of contract.
Indeed, it is perceived that the WICB is technically insolvent and, like any other corporate entity, would be hard-pressed to stave off bankruptcy proceedings. Over the past year, there has been considerable fighting among board members in relation to their choices for leadership. Given the state of affairs, we feel there needs to be some level of accountability by the WICB.
We prefer to argue that the board needs to be accountable to its stakeholders, which include the government and, of course, the people of the region, rather than solely to its board members and cricket associations. In this context, Prime Minister Stuart is correct to state his mind on the issue and not be bothered by fretting claims of political interference.
Meaning of corporate governance. Corporate governance comprises a country’s private and public institutions, both formal and informal, which together govern the relationship between people who manage corporations and all others who invest resources in them. Caribbean governments have invested substantial sums of moneys in assisting with the development
of cricket, especially with the building of cricket venues and other infrastructural projects.
In other words, the institutions of corporate governance serve to determine what society considers to be the acceptable standards of corporate behaviour, and to ensure that corporations comply with those standards. In this context, CARICOM governments have expressed the view that the standards of corporate governance as practised by the WICB are undesirable and currently undermine the integrity of West Indies cricket.
We suspect that when WICB is faced with further financial challenges, it will come running to the governments. Is this not a good case for strong corporate governance within the WICB?
As taxpayers, we should be concerned about pumping any further dollars into an entity that displays disdain for being accountable to its supporting stakeholders and seems not to be bothered to seriously consider the burning issues highlighted in the Barriteau Report. The Barriteau Report proposed a restructuring of the WICB to meet the changing demands of a rapidly evolving global cricket environment.
For example, we note recent changes in the CPL and the purchase of both the Trident and Red Steel cricket teams by Indian businessmen with a view to rebranding the game and introducing exciting innovations. In this context, the quality of governance in institutions has a significant impact on both national and regional development.
Implications for policy. In relation to the current state of play, a major policy challenge is to break the silence and the pervasive nature of inaction that continue to undermine public confidence and the integrity of West Indies cricket.
As a follow-up to the Barriteau Report, the University of the West Indies can assist with actively participating in the search for relevant solutions to these types of problems that confront the wider society.
Social science research that seeks to bridge the gap between theory and practice will go a long way to educating the public about the process of accountability and transparency, which are glaringly absent from the current practice that governs the WICB. To this end, the WICB needs to be rebranded and brought into the 21st century based on a new approach to corporate governance, which cannot be achieved without adequate political and public governance.
In closing, we have a few parting questions:
When will we hear what will be done to provide accountability to the Caribbean people as a whole?
When will we be privy to board minutes?
Cricket is too important a part of Caribbean life for us to let it wither. As an institution older than CARICOM and other proposed and failed integrative mechanisms, the Barriteau Report is deserving of serious consideration; and consequently, we argue for the appropriate pressure to be brought to bear.
(Dr Wayne Charles-Soverall is senior lecturer in public sector management, and coordinator of the Public Sector Management Research Unit of the Department of Management Studies of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus; and
Dr Philmore Alleyne is head and senior lecturer in accounting, and coordinator of the Corporate Governance Unit of the Department of Management Studies of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.)