Where is The WICB Headed? (Part 2)

Wed, Jul 9, '03


Wes Hall

When I closed part one of this series, we had established the iron-clad grip of the Executive Committee (EC) on the affairs of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the role of Reverend Wes Hall as chief cook.

In these circumstances, it is sufficient to question the moral compulsion of the EC members to adopt any means necessary policy to carry on their programs started under Hall's presidency. It is time for the EC to stand back and allow the stakeholders and shareholders to independently assess the last two years of the WICB.

The ensuing debate should question how well the Strategic Plan was implemented, the quality of leadership required and whether the EC should to be restructured.

If the Strategic Plan put together in November 2000 was a good one and if the next revision of the Plan is relevant to the future environment in which the WICB will operate, then there should be no fear of lack of continuance since any incoming President and Vice President would have to follow the organisation's Plan and the issue is therefore the skills and competence of the nominated candidates to manage and implement the Plan.

Chetram Singh is the Presidential nominee of the status-quo. To his credit, he has led the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB), with some success for the last ten years and has contributed to expanding the game throughout Guyana. He is known as a skilled businessman with the ability to twist arms to get things done. However, his achievements have come at great cost to his reputation and character.

As a WICB director, Chetram Singh was openly opposed to the Leeward and Windward islands receiving a special dispensation of additional grant funds to compensate them for the additional costs they incurred (mostly travel for competitions and camps).

It is a pattern with the 'leadership' of the EC. Here's Stephen Alleyne in the Barbados Nation recently: "The major element prompting the move towards a second ground (in Barbados during the proposed World Cup 2007] is the cost of moving television equipment between venues. It has been realised that island-to-island travel is ten times higher than land travel. You may well find the finances and economics of moving to a ground somewhere in Barbados are much cheaper than having to go to a ground in Tobago, St Lucia or St Vincent, for example.

At the September 2003 meeting of the WICB Board of Directors, the management proposed that Guyana be scheduled only for an ODI instead of a test match in the 2003 C&W Series against Australia. The rationale was that Guyana contributed much more profits from ODI games rather than Test matches compared to the other territories.

Chetram Singh and his sidekick WICB director from Guyana, Bish Panday, rose in protest, threatened to walk out of the meeting and withdraw Guyana from membership of the WICB. To get the Guyanese directors back to the meeting the other directors capitulated, reversed their better judgement and granted Guyana the Test by removing a Test from Jamaica where a better pitch, crowd, and better financial returns would have been obtained.

Here was a territory holding the WICB to ransom. If the Board was firm, the following would have occurred:

  • Singh and Panday would have returned to Guyana to brief the Guyana Board and people.

  • All Guyanese would have concluded that by withdrawing membership in the WICB, then Guyana would not play in any WICB competition at any level.

  • Guyanese would not be selected on West Indies teams at any level.

  • Tour matches would not be played in Guyana in the future.

  • All of Guyana would not have accepted this position and would have booted out Singh and Panday as their representatives on the WICB.

This was clearly not behaviour becoming a WICB director and clearly not the behaviour becoming and expected of a future WICB President whose first remit is to unite the members of the WICB. But Guyanese who attempt to democratically oppose Singh and Panday in Demerara and Guyana Cricket Board elections know only too well the lengths these gentlemen are prepared to go to protect and maintain their status quo.

Proof of this is available from the mouths of the great Rohan Kanhai and Basil Butcher, two former heroes who were belitted publicly by Singh and his cohorts within the GCB.

There is also International concern about Singh and his suitability as a Cricket Administrator. Sources at the WICB tell me that ICC anti-corruption Czar Sir Paul Condon has written to the WICB President Wes Hall questioning Singh's ownership and operation of the Goodwood Racing Service, a betting establishment.

Lord Condon, in his 2001 report on Corruption in World Cricket, told the ICC and its members to delink themselves from business interests linked to television (serving on committees who award contracts for TV rights). He also emphatically told them to face up to the perceptions involved in combining senior positions in cricket administration with personal business interests in betting and gaming.

The ICC, in response to Lord Condon's recommendations, adopted the policy that each ICC Director signs the Executive Board Declaration in which reference is made to conflicts of interest and that Directors be bound to the Code of Ethics Policy. Essentially, the policy covers only ICC Executive Board Officials and Directors. It is clear that Singh's presidency is in conflict with ICC rules governing Member directors serving on the ICC Executive Board, but the EC seem to have this covered by planning for someone else other than Singh to serve at the ICC.

Concerned also about corruption, role ambiguity, and conflicts of interests, the ICC proposed that ICC member countries adopt a similar code in their governing organisations. One only has to make a fool's guess that the EC did not propose this to any board meeting in order to protect Singh's tenure on the committee and the Board.

The question for all stakeholders is do we want this kind of governance in the premier West Indian sport? The answer is obvious.

E. Valentine Banks from Anguilla and the Leeward Islands is the incumbent vice president Singh's running mate. He holds the distinction of not being chairman of any committee of the WICB after being removed as Chairman of the Development Committee and then the Chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee.

My sources tell me that Hall, who confessed at first that his strength was cricket operations and development and did not know anything about finance, asked Banks to switch from Development to a newly created committee, Finance and Audit. Banks' role was to head the important Audit Committee so that independent financial oversight could be exercised over the Board's funds.

However, there were other reasons for Banks' demise. The power-brokers convinced Hall that in politics, the prime Minister must have hands-on control of the finances or up and coming ministers could usurp his power and control. Now, remember, Hall was very familiar with this situation being a former politician for over 15 years. In less that no time, Hall had total control after removing Banks from the Audit Committee.

Having emasculated Banks, Hall was now in charge of Finance and Audit, EC, Cricket Development and Playing and the World Cup Interim Committee which has had a long interim tenure because of Hall's reluctance to incorporate and launch the West Indies World Cup 2007 Company, a move that transfers power to an independent Board.

Sources say that, in the interim, Hall has proposed and appointed his former cricket teammate Rawle Branker as President of the World Cup Company. Privately, Hall let his friends know that he was very disappointed in Banks for embarrassing him and the WICB over the West Indies Cricket Lottery fiasco. This is one aspect of Hall's presidency that he chooses not to discuss publicly.

Notwithstanding, Hall let it slip that early in his Presidency, he consulted with Pat Rousseau the former WICB President, under whom he had served as Chairman of Selectors and with whom he enjoyed a good relationship. The two agreed that there were a number of projects started under Rousseau which would be crucial to continue for the financial interest and future of the WICB.

Hall, not being versed in finance and not wanting to let his pastoral calling interfere with WICB's future, sent Banks to Jamaica to be briefed by Rousseau. At that meeting, Rousseau told Banks all he knew about the lottery project and passed over all the files to Banks to take over the project.

Banks, who was part of the clique that helped overthrow Rousseau and Joseph, was reluctant to take direction from projects initiated by Rousseau. He was further confused and interpreted that his President being a Christian minister, would not condone gambling and betting. In agony, Banks sat on the files for a year and did no work to advance the lottery project.

Readers should know that the lottery project was a joint initiative between the CARICOM Governments, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and WICB. Money raised by the lottery would be used to finance Carifesta, expansion of the University, finance cricket development within WICB territories and provide much needed funds for developing stadia and other facilities for the World Cup in 2007.

In mid 2002, CARICOM and UWI wrote to Hall much to his surprise that they had not heard from the WICB in over a year and it appeared that the WICB had effectively compromised the project and its potential benefits. To regain face, Hall convincingly assured a CARICOM meeting chaired by Minister Guy Yearwood of his commitment to the project and speedily appointed Teddy Griffith to take over the development of the Lottery project from Banks.

Griffith, as everyone knows is the consummate professional with his heart in West Indies cricket. A man dedicated to serve when ever called upon to do so. A gentleman of tremendous talents. He was even selected as a batsman for the WICB and played for both Barbados and Jamaica. A man of integrity.

Griffith reported to the AGM meeting in May 2002 that having reviewed the files and consulted with Rousseau and others, that if the WICB wanted the lottery to get of the ground with speed and effect, that the Board would need to appoint Pat Rousseau, the person who knew the most about the project, the person who could open doors in all the Governments of CARICOM.

The Board was not prepared for this bold, daring and gut-wrenching recommendation. In unison, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana and the Leeward directors all said vehemently objected to Roussseau's appointment. Too much water had flowed under the bridge. Hall's mission of reconciliation and healing fell flat on its face and like Caesar, he must have turned to Banks and said "Et tu Valentine" who raised his hands to support his fellow conspirators.

** Look out for the third and final part that includes details of a little-known US$8 million marketing deal between the WICB and the South African Investment Limited (SAIL), a sports investment company out of South Africa.