By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) Over five years after the Supreme Court of India declared the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as a public body discharging public functions, West Indies cricket has taken cue from the Indian apex court’s observation and has classified Cricket West Indies (CWI) in the same bracket.
A task force established under the chairmanship of Don Wehby — a former Jamaican minister and business executive who was invited by CWI to undertake a review of the corporate governance framework and to recommend changes to enhance stakeholder trust and ensure more transparency and accountability — has quoted the Supreme Court of India’s observation in its report.
“In its strategic planning over the past decade, CWI makes reference to the inclusion of critical stakeholders in its governance structure. That suggests implicitly a recognition of the fact, and law, that cricket is a public good in the region and that CWI carries out a public function,” the Wehby Report says.
“…we consider it highly pertinent, and therefore quote as applicable to West Indies cricket, the statement of the Supreme Court of India in its ruling that cricket is a public good in India, with CWI holding a status commensurate with that of BCCI pronounced upon by the court,” adds the Wehby Report before it mentions the entire order of the Supreme Court of India.
“As noted repeatedly by the Supreme Court in India, cricket is a public good, and therefore its management and control is a public function. CWI should exercise that public function on behalf of the people of the region as a public good. Despite its stated commitment to the transformation of the governance of CWI to one which truly and effectively carries out a public function, CWI remains a privately-run entity. While CWI has vacillated and resisted change, West Indies teams have descended to the bottom of the international rankings and CWI has moved from crisis to crisis financially,” the report further adds.
The report observes that CWI is facing criticism and a lack of confidence and support from public and stakeholder groups across the region.
“CWI is approaching the mid-way point of its 2018-2023 strategic plan and its finances remain unfavourable with the reality of cyclical revenue flows and diminishing sponsorship opportunities. It faces criticism and a lack of confidence and support from the public and stakeholder groups across the region including governments,” the report says.
Retired Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, the architect of the BCCI reforms that led to a new constitution, told IANS, “This is actually basic template for good governance and good management of cricket. It brings accountability, brings transparency, and it brings the stakeholders, i.e. the public at large, at the forefront because it is their interest which is taken care of at every stage.”
Lodha admitted that implementation has been a problem in India.
“When SC accepted (the reforms), our point of view was already vindicated, but it is the implementing agencies that are creating havoc. They are not honestly implementing it. Otherwise SC, in the first order of July 18, 2016, accepted every word of it,” he said.
The Wehby report also says that most of the cricket boards, including India’s, have reformed their boards’ governance structures. However, the Windies task force looks at Cricket Australia, England and Wales Cricket Board and New Zealand Cricket primarily as it deems them more pertinent to CWI.
A Supreme Court of India bench, headed by Justice TS Thakur had, in January 2015, rejected BCCI’s claim of being a private body and appointed the Lodha committee to suggest reforms.
“Any organisation or entity that has such pervasive control over the game (of cricket) and its affairs and such powers as can make dreams end up in smoke or come true cannot be said to be undertaking any private activity,” the bench had said back then.
“The functions of the board are clearly public functions, which, till such time the state intervenes to take over the same, remain in the nature of public functions, no matter discharged by a society registered under the Registration of Societies Act… it cannot be said that the functions are not public functions or that the entity discharging the same is not answerable on the standards generally applicable to judicial review of State action,” it had also stated.