Sports

Worried sponsors pile pressure on West Indies

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS: The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), reeling from the fallout from the team’s withdrawal from the tour of India, is facing fresh pressure from its worried commercial and broadcast partners.

West Indies cricket was plunged into a major crisis after the tourists abandoned their series in India over a protracted payment dispute between the players and their board.

The Indian cricket board (BCCI), the most powerful body in the sport, responded by suspending all future tours with the Caribbean team and beginning legal action against the WICB — moves that could have a devastating financial impact.

Oliver McIntosh chief executive officer of Digicel Sportsmax, the pan-Caribbean sports television network, says he is worried about the forthcoming West Indies tour of South Africa and says the WICB needs to undergo serious changes.

“We are due to broadcast West Indies tour of South Africa in December and January. We have invested a lot of money in the rights and in the talent. We have started marketing it, we have sponsors on board and if that doesn’t happen, you totally retract, you have to go back to sponsors and give back money,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“We are worried. It does impact our audience. If West Indies cricket is no longer on, that is a big blow for us, a big blow,” he added.

While in the past governments in the Caribbean have intervened in the various crises that have afflicted West Indies, McIntosh says that it is sponsors and other backers who need to start pushing the WICB to make major changes.

“What has to happen in this case is that the private interests have to get involved and say, ‘Look, if I have a stake here, if you want me to stay involved and want me to continue to help funding the cricket, this is how it has to go’,” he said.

Telecommunications company Digicel, which recently bought Sportsmax, is well established as the main backer of West Indies cricket and is likely to sit down with the WICB in the near future.

“Like all cricket fans, we’re disappointed when matches don’t happen,” Digicel said in a statement issued to Reuters on Thursday.

“To be clear, our contract is with the WICB.‎ And it is with the WICB that we must have a discussion. As such, we will not be commenting for the time being.”

While several efforts have been made to reform the WICB during the past two decades of decline on the field, and Twenty20 cricket has enjoyed plenty of success in the region, conflicts have continued throughout different leaderships.

McIntosh believes that major reform is needed.

“The board has to be restructured. You need to get some independent people on the board who are not going to run it on a country basis. Whenever there is a new president elected and he is from Jamaica, then the CEO comes from Jamaica and then if he’s from St Lucia then it’s a St.Lucian.

“It has to be what is best for cricket and developing cricket. I think that private interests are going to have to get involved in saying it is not going to work (like this).” (Reuters)

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