Chris Dehring, former chief marketing executive with the West Indies Cricket Board, sees a bleak future for Cricket West Indies (CWI) if the revenue spread in world cricket does not change.
Speaking on the Mason and Guest talk show in Barbados on Tuesday, Dehring, who was also chief executive of Cricket World Cup 2007 which the West Indies hosted, did not see a bright future for the cash-strapped regional governing body.
“If I was to be brutally honest...unless the ICC and world cricket changes in its structure and shape, the future of West Indies cricket is very, very challenged,” he said.
Last week, CWI announced what it called “temporary” 50 per cent cuts in salary for players, umpires and staff from July, and funding cuts to territorial boards as a result of the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic which has halted all international cricket. Dehring noted that CWI did not have the reserves, “that would allow it to cushion the impact of Covid-19.” Asked whether the regional body could have done better to have a financial cushion to deal with the current crisis, Dehring said, “not really.” He noted that the small size of the Caribbean region did not allow it to capitalise on the influx of television revenue from the early 1990s.
“The base of the West Indies revenue was always going to be the Caribbean -- four or five million poor people in essence...You can always correlate and track the demise of West Indies cricket with the growth of international television revenues and cricket, and the correlation is very, very high.”
He added: “I know people talk about, oh we could have marketed our great West Indies players of the past, but the reality is when we had the Viv Richards and the mighty West Indies team, the world of cricket did not have those kinds of revenues. There was no television revenue that you could create that kind of revenue base. So it’s unfortunate, but the reality is that we were an anathema to have this tiny part of the world creating this incredible cricket team that was difficult to monetise.”
But addressing the current plight of CWI, Dehring said the International Cricket Council had to intervene to save smaller cricket markets.
He referred to a WICB proposal from the 1999/2000 period that was rejected by the other ICC members.
“We had proposed a formula that look, just like the NFL, Major League Baseball, the English Premier League, there is a pool of television rights that is based on the fact that you’re going to have all these countries playing against each other and therefore everybody should get a share of those rights. It doesn’t matter whether West Indies is playing India or England is playing Australia or Zimbabwe is playing India. You have this schedule of matches, you sell those television rights and they are shared simply because the Caribbean does not have the television rights to contribute but the West Indies as a team can...provide entertainment for the sale of those television rights...The teams that are actually playing in the games would get a primary share but you have to find a way to make it economic for all the other teams in the world to continue to play.”
And asked what advice he would give to CWI president Ricky Skerritt, Dehring stressed: “You have to get the ear of key member states in the ICC and restructure the entire financial distribution of how the ICC runs (its affairs).”