Cricket: West Indies’ Electoral Debacle!
Dr. Jason Haynes
Lecturer in Sports Law & Deputy Dean (Graduate Studies & Research), University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
The Anglophone Caribbean, affectionately known as the ‘West Indies’ in the cricketing realm, is no stranger to politics and dissension.
Not only do conflicts surround the selection of players, disciplinary proceedings and contractual matters, such as the payment of salaries, but also institutional conflicts related to how Cricket West Indies (CWI), formerly the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is governed, abound.
Given the multi-island composition of CWI, institutional governance issues are compounded by underlying perceptions of racial discrimination, a lack of inclusion and diversity, national sovereign interests and cronyism.
The Don Wehby Report
On 30 July, 2020, The Don Wehby Task Force on Governance Reform of CWI issued a scathing report that identified a range of institutional challenges confronting CWI. The Task Force expressed its fundamental concern that:
“Standards of governance of CWI fall far short of best governance practices and do not provide the accountability and transparency which are expected of a corporate body exercising an important and influential role in the sport which brings the Caribbean people together and which in essence belongs to the people of the Caribbean.”
Amongst other things, the Task Force pointed to the fact that, under the current institutional arrangement of CWI, two representatives from each Territorial Board (12 in total from the Jamaica Cricket Association, Leeward Islands Cricket Board, Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board, the Windward Islands Cricket Board, the Barbados Cricket Association and the Guyana Cricket Board) comprise the Organisation’s Management Committee (The Board). The Report, having considered recent institutional developments in England and Wales, Australia and New Zealand, called for a reimagining of CWI institutional/governance arrangements, which it considered to be both anachronistic and out of sync with good corporate governance principles, which require a clear separation between shareholders (the Territorial Boards) and management. The Report expressed particular concern about the fact that the extant governance approach privileges the interests of the Territorial Boards over and above CWI’s collective interests, since representatives from the Territorial Boards also comprise the Organisation’s Management Committee.
Other issues pointed to by the Committee included the Board’s lack of gender diversity; the mismatch of the Territorial Boards’ constitutional arrangements; a lack of meaningful articulation of the roles and responsibilities of CWI’s President and Vice President; the absence of term limits; and the Organisation’s apparent lack of financial sustainability.
The Recent Electoral Debacle
In 2019, Mr. Ricky Skerritt of St Kitts and Nevis and Dr. Kishore Shallow of St Vincent and the Grenadines were elected President and Vice President, respectively, to replace the then incumbents Dave Cameron of Jamaica and Emmanuel Nanthan of the Windward Islands. Their elections struck positive chords with a significant portion of their West Indian constituents, who had become frustrated by what they deemed to be a most inefficient organisation (CWI), whose poor governance arrangements were only outstripped by the West Indies Cricket Team’s general and persistent underwhelming performance. The Skerrit and Shallow administration, upon election to office, immediately constituted the Don Wehby Task Force, promising that the recommendations proposed by that body would be seriously considered and, where appropriate, implemented.
Whilst, in the two intervening years since their elections, the Skerrit – Shallow duo have faced immeasurable difficulties, including financial shortfalls arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a general feeling, across the Caribbean region, that the acrimony that once pervaded the organisation’s relationship with players has eased, and the regional team is, on performance alone, performing much better than in previous years.
Then came another fork in the road. On 28 March 2021, CWI’s biannual elections were forcibly postponed as a result of the absence of a quorum (a minimum of 9 representatives) to facilitate the conduct of the elections. The representatives of two Territorial Boards, Anand Sanasie of the Guyana Cricket Board and Calvin Hope of the Barbados Cricket Board, who were the challengers to Skerritt and Shallow, did not attend the meeting, citing various reasons, including the failure of the Board to provide them with timely financial reports and general concerns over the involvement of the Skerrit – Shallow duo in the political and institutional affairs of the Guyana Cricket Board.
The elections were postponed to 11 April 2021 at which Skerrit and Shallow were elected unopposed after Sanasie and Hope decided to withdraw from the electoral race. In their notice to the Board, Sanasie and Hope cited the “refusal by the leadership of CWI to uphold the highest standards, long-standing traditions and rules for governing the administration of West indies cricket” as the reasons for their withdrawal from the race for President and Vice President, respectively.
Whilst the latest CWI electoral debacle is not at all unexpected, given the turbulent relations and resulting conflicts of interest that have embroiled West Indies Cricket over the years, it is certainly disheartening that, at an important meeting as an Annual General Meeting, CWI was not able to secure the requisite quorum so as to facilitate the holding of elections.
If there is any lesson to be learned from this experience, it is that it is untenable that representatives of the Territorial Boards (shareholders) should be put forward by their Territorial Boards to run for competitive positions on the Board of CWI, as national allegiance will also trump the overall organisational interests.
It may very well be, therefore, that the Wehby recommendations, regarding the reimagining of CWI’s institutional arrangements, must be implemented as a matter of urgency, so as to avoid the embarrassment and dissension that continue to affect cricket in the West Indies., which is such an important and popular sport.