PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says CARICOM could proceed with a legal challenge to Cricket West Indies’ right to manage the sport in the Caribbean, in an unprecedented test of the body’s longstanding authority.
Speaking on local radio here, Rowley said CARICOM had already sought legal advice and had been assured there was a case to be argued on the basis of CWI, as a private entity, continuing to manage cricket, which constituted a public good.
In fact, Rowley indicated that he would soon be speaking to St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves – the chairman of CARICOM’s subcommittee on cricket – to also get him to engage the matter.
“The CARICOM Secretariat was told by the CARICOM leaders, ‘go and get legal advice on this very fundamental point: where did West Indies Cricket Board or whoever it is get this asset called West Indies Cricket Inc and who really owns West Indies cricket,” Rowley said.
“And until we are prepared to address that issue, what is going on now will continue and get worse and worse until what I predicted (West Indies’ relegation into a Division Two) is likely to happen.”
He continued: “We got a legal view. The Secretariat indicated that one of our Trinidad lawyers gave a legal opinion that there is an arguable case that West Indies Cricket is a public good and therefore there is a role for the region’s leadership to get involved because the game is destroyed and that could be argued in any court of law.
“I think the CARICOM has that position. The Secretariat has indicated to me that the advice indicates that CARICOM proceed along that line and I expect that when Prime Minister Gonsalves gets over his current personal difficulty (bereavement) at home and we focus on this issue, we will be able to look at some focused response to the existing hijacking of West Indies cricket.”
CARICOM has sought to intervene in the sport ever since the controversial abandoned tour of India in 2014 which resulted in CWI being slapped with a US$42 million claim in damages by the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI).
The body subsequently commissioned a study by a Governance Review panel of eminent persons, headed by UWI Cave Hill Principal Professor Eudine Barriteau, which found the CWI structure to be “antiquated”, “obsolete” and “anachronistic” and recommended the “immediate dissolution of the West Indies Cricket Board and the appointment of an Interim Board.”
CWI, then named the West Indies Cricket Board, subsequently resisted the move, with Rowley noting that the main tenet of their argument as the fact they were a private body.
“Mr [Dave] Cameron (CWI president) and his people told us to our face they are not accepting that [recommendation] because West Indies cricket is really West Indies Cricket Inc, meaning a corporate body incorporated and they are beholden to their shareholders and not to any CARICOM leadership,” Rowley charged.
The impasse between CWI and CARICOM has dragged on since, resulting in the resignation last year of Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell as chairman of the subcommittee on cricket and Gonsalves assuming the post.
In the interim, controversy has continued to plague West Indies cricket. Last September, highly successful head coach Phil Simmons was unceremoniously axed on the eve of the away series against Pakistan and leading Test batsman Darren Bravo has since been barred from any competitive cricket under the CWI’s auspices, for a tweet critical of Cameron.
On the field, results have also continued in a downward spiral with the Windies winning just two of their last 10 Tests, four of their last 21 ODIs and six of their last 13 Twenty20 Internationals.
Rowley, who along with Mitchell raised the crisis of West Indies cricket at last weekend’s CARICOM Summit in Grenada, said it was critical that his colleagues pressed the matter of CWI’s right to manage for the sake of the region.
“In the Caribbean, I think we have an opening that we should focus on. The focus should be on trying to answer the question: who owns West Indies cricket and from whence does this authority come, that some quasi-democratic arrangement across the region could result in this intractable problem which is destroying the game,” Rowley contended.
“My preference is that we head towards a situation of answering that question and the longer we take to do that, the more of what you saw happening in Grenada [at the CARCICOM Summit] where one Prime Minister offends another Prime Minister, that is likely to become the future.”
He added: “There ought to be some serious challenges to the status quo and let the people explain themselves and defend themselves, preferably in a court of law because there must be some legal rights here for the West Indies population who are feeling the pinch of the collapse of this game.
“And that pinch is just not emotive as [Prime Minister] Gaston Browne says from Antigua. The pinch is also hugely economic.”