WICB NOT AT FAULT!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Deldridge Flavius

Since the re­fusal of the West Indies play­ers to com­plete their 2014 tour of In­dia, there has beeen no end to the let­ters, ar­ti­cles and col­umns writ­ten to ei­ther con­demn or ex­on­er­ate the of­fend­ing par­ties. I had just about shelved the idea of writ­ing this piece when I heard the opin­ion of St. Lu­cia’s for­mer Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent, Earl Huntley. He called for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to re­sign after the play­ers re­fused to play. Not only do I dis­agree with this, but I am also very dis­ap­pointed at his as­sess­ment of the facts, com­ing from a prac­tis­ing diplo­mat and a for­mer sport­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor him­self. I ex­pected him to put the blame where it re­ally be­longs: on the play­ers who uni­lat­er­aly ter­mi­nated their con­tracts know­ing full well what the con­se­quences were likely to be.

There are cer­tain ba­sic facts that Mr. Huntley, and many oth­ers who have ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, seem to have over­looked in their as­sess­ment of what tran­spired in In­dia. Lest any­one for­get, let me re­mind you that I have been a strong critic of the pre­vi­ous WICB and with good rea­son; at least the courts agreed with me. I hold no brief for Mr. Cameron and company; I have never even met the man. I don’t know that his board is, or will be, any bet­ter than that led by Dr. Ju­lian Robert Hunte, bear­ing in mind he was Hunte’s run­ning mate and Vice Pres­i­dent, but so far I have not seen them be­have in a man­ner wor­thy of the con­dem­na­tion that their pre­de­ces­sors re­ceived over an ex­tended pe­riod of time. Much of the com­men­tary I have heard and read of the in­ci­dent, es­pe­cially in St. Lu­cia, seems to be based on ei­ther pure un­in­formed emo­tion, po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion or petty in­su­lar­ity. It seems clear to me that the par­ties who are re­ally to be blamed are the West Indies Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (WIPA) and the play­ers who sup­ported him. When one con­sid­ers all that went on be­tween the for­mer board and the WIPA, there is no rea­son why the mem­bers of the WIPA on that ill-fated tour should have been al­lowed to travel to In­dia be­fore see­ing what was in the new CBA/MOU. Not­with­stand­ing the dif­fi­cult character that Ram­nar­ine was, he would not have al­lowed the tour to com­mence be­fore the mem­bers knew of the de­tails. I rather sus­pect Wavell Hinds, and by ex­ten­sion the WIPA, had good in­ten­tions when they signed that agree­ment with the WICB but made a ma­jor er­ror in pro­ce­dure. The prob­lem that arose was be­tween the WIPA and the com­plain­ing play­ers, not the WICB.

Now what re­ally led to this mess? Noth­ing but the small mat­ter of US$35,000 per match day that those play­ers want paid to them. This money is sup­posed to be paid out of spon­sor­ship money the board re­ceives. The very fact that it comes from spon­sor­ship monies means it is nei­ther a guar­an­tee nor an en­ti­tle­ment. It doesn’t mat­ter who we’re play­ing; they want it paid ir­re­spec­tive of the fact that they are hand­somely renu­mer­ated. We’ve since found out that Bravo and company agreed to give up this money, ei­ther in whole or in part, to help fund the re­tain­ers for first class crick­eters but only on con­di­tion that what they were giv­ing up was made up in other ar­eas! If giv­ing up some­thing, why do you want it made up else­where? When a team has been ranked at num­ber 8 out of 10 com­pet­ing mem­bers for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber, what right does that team have to make such de­mands?

As in any other in­dus­trial re­la­tions en­vi­ron­ment there is a bar­gain­ing unit be­tween the WICB and the play­ers; it is called the WIPA. When Mr. Bravo and the play­ers he claimed to be speak­ing for dis­cov­ered that their ex­pec­ta­tions were not met in the CBA/MOU, he was right to dis­patch his first let­ter to Wavell Hinds. How­ever, he was pal­pa­bly wrong to ask the WICB to dis­re­gard the WIPA as their rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Dave Cameron was also right to in­form him that the WIPA is the only en­tity the board rec­og­nizes and will ne­go­ti­ate with. I am not a lawyer but I am aware that there are laws that gov­ern con­tracts and/or agree­ments be­tween par­ties. If Bravo and company wanted to dis­pense with the WIPA at that point, they needed to re­al­ize that the num­ber of play­ers who were in In­dia was just a mi­cro­cosm of the over­all mem­ber­ship of the WIPA and there­fore did not have the le­git­i­macy to do so.

There are in ex­cess of 100 more crick­eters, in­clud­ing the 90 who just re­cently signed re­tain­ers funded by the same money Bravo and company are belly­ach­ing over, who are mem­bers of the WIPA. There­fore Bravo and his team could not on their own give di­rec­tives to the WICB re­gard­ing their bar­gain­ing unit. Since it would have been im­prac­ti­cal, if not im­pos­si­ble, for the WIPA to con­vene a gen­eral meet­ing to re­place the cur­rent WIPA ex­ec­u­tive be­fore the tour ended, they had ev­ery right and obli­ga­tion to com­plete the tour, bear­ing in mind they were un­der con­tract.

Some per­sons are of the view that Dave Cameron, who was at ICC head­quar­ters at the be­gin­ning of the dis­pute, should have taken the three hour flight and gone to In­dia to speak with the play­ers. Oh yeah! Is this the sort of thing we want to ad­vo­cate? The em­ployer by­pass­ing the bar­gain­ing unit and go­ing di­rectly to the em­ploy­ees to ne­go­ti­ate? Then again this is what we do here; Jimmy Fletcher knows a thing or two about that, I sup­pose. Would that not be in breach of the CBA/MOU? Would that not leave the WICB open to a law­suit by the WIPA?

And for those of you who think this is what should have been done, are you aware that a three man del­e­ga­tion com­pris­ing Michael Muir­head, CEO; Ju­lian Charles, Chair­man Cricket Com­mit­tee; and Wavell Hinds, Pres­i­dent/CEO of WIPA was due to ar­rive in In­dia one day after the ODI se­ries would have been com­pleted? Their role, as I un­der­stood it, was to in­form the play­ers of the work­ings of the new CBA/ MOU. It is also re­ported that after re­ceiv­ing Bravo’s let­ter, Dave Cameron in­formed Bravo that Wavell Hinds would also ad­dress the con­cerns raised upon ar­rival in In­dia. Bravo and company dis­re­garded that; they didn’t even have the cour­tesy to wait for the ar­rival of the del­e­ga­tion to see what tid­ings or man­date they were bring­ing. In Bravo’s first let­ter he threat­ened that the board would be brought to its knees if their de­mands were not met. Why did they not wait to see if their de­mands would be met by Mr. Muir­head?

Now let us as­sume for a mo­ment that Dave Cameron was au­da­cious enough to by­pass the WIPA and go to In­dia. What would he have ac­com­plished? What would have been his op­tions? It seems to me he would have had only two: 1) In­form the play­ers that he has a signed CBA/MOU and will stick to it (although he would be right, we would still be where we are to­day, you could count on that); 2) He could make them an empty prom­ise in or­der to get them to play, tell them a lie that the money would be paid later, know­ing very well that the board dosen’t have it. The tour might have been saved and we might not be faced with an im­pend­ing law­suit from In­dia at this time, but I can as­sure you, dear reader, that some other tour would be in jeop­ardy when the money didn’t come up. After all, th­ese play­ers have with­held their labour for less in re­cent times. If Cameron was stupid enough to re­di­rect the money from the up­com­ing Pro­fes­sional League, the WICB would be faced with 90 law­suits. Any time abor­tion takes place there are bound to be at least two wounded par­ties. As a re­sult of the play­ers re­fus­ing to play and the WICB re­call­ing them, the BCCI has in­cured ma­jor losses which have left them with a bloody nose. Like­wise the WICB, which had been ail­ing for a long time, now has to in­dem­nify them via what could very well be the ul­ti­mate sacrifice. It is bleed­ing pro­fusely. In the WICB’s last an­nual fi­nan­cial re­port, the au­di­tor ex­pressed ma­jor con­cerns about its vi­a­bil­ity as a go­ing con­cern, due to its poor fi­nan­cial health. If there­fore the WICB has to find this US$41.9 mil­lion that the BCCI is claim­ing, the muti­nous bunch must have their feet held to the fire. The im­pli­ca­tions for re­mov­ing them from the team at this time are too grave to con­tem­plate but the WICB should start by strip­ping all three cap­tains of their jobs.

Head of the WICB Dave Cameron: Many are call­ing for his head in the wake of Windies cricket fi­asco.

But are those calls jus­ti­fied?

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