Every player and player association in world cricket owes a lot to Tim May: Paul Marsh

Paul Marsh © Getty Images

Last year, Gamechanger had spoken with Tim May, the then CEO of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA), a federation of professional cricketers associations, on the issues arising from the non-payment of cricketers by the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). Upon his resignation as CEO, Tim May’s tasks have been taken over by Paul Marsh as the Executive Chairman and Ian Smith as the Chief Operating Officer of FICA. Newly-appointed Executive Chairman of FICA Paul Marsh speaks with Gamechanger on the issues relating to securing player payments, corruption, appointment to the ICC Cricket Committee and much more:

Gamechanger (GC):  Congratulations on your appointment as FICA Executive Chairman. You have taken over from Tim May, who spearheaded the FICA for close to eight years. What, in your view, is the legacy left behind by Tim May?

Paul Marsh (PM): Thank you.  I am certainly looking forward to the many challenges that lay ahead. Tim May’s legacy is significant and he did a remarkable job in difficult circumstances. He was instrumental in setting up strong player associations in several countries, as well as an international body in FICA, that has ensured that the players are properly represented in most parts of the cricket world. It is difficult to explain just how challenging this has been and I’m not sure too many other people could have succeeded the way Tim has.

More specifically, his achievements during his time in FICA are many. The negotiation of player-friendly terms for International Cricket Council (ICC) events since 2003, improved processes and accountability for security surrounding all cricket events and the negotiation of standard player contracts for the various T20 leagues that have mushroomed all over the world, are just a few of his many achievements. Every player and player association in world cricket owes a lot to Tim May and it is our job to carry his legacy forward.

GC: One of the reasons cited by Tim for his decision to quit was his “loss of confidence in the ability of the game to govern itself”. He alluded to his ouster from the ICC Cricket Committee and the failure of the ICC to implement the Woolf Report, as examples of governance failures. Where and how do you intend to pick up the thread on these issues? How do you see the relationship between FICA and ICC shaping up in the days ahead?

PM: In relation to the ICC Cricket Committee issue, the facts are clear. FICA has evidence that some countries’ Boards pressured captains into changing their votes in the process of electing the players’ representative to the ICC Cricket Committee. This is a clear breach of the ICC’s own Code of Ethics. We asked the ICC to follow their own processes and independently investigate this matter. They refused to do this. We are simply trying to do what the ICC is obligated to do themselves and refer the matter directly to the Ethics Officer. The Woolf Report made several clear recommendations with regard to governance changes that needed to be made at the ICC level, virtually none of which have been implemented. If we want our sport to be governed properly, then these expert recommendations cannot be ignored on the basis of self-interest. Our strong preference is to have a good and productive relationship with the ICC, but that can’t exclude FICA holding them to account from time-to-time, especially when the broader health of the game is at stake.

GC: What are your foremost priorities for the remainder of this year? What are some of the goals that you would like FICA to achieve by the end of this year?

PM: Our first priority is an internal one. FICA has four strong player associations as members, one that is making good progress but two that need to become stronger. There are challenges in these countries and FICA needs to work with them to help them overcome them. The stronger player associations have achieved fantastic outcomes for their players, and in my view the game is stronger in each of these countries because of the presence of strong player associations. Beyond this issue, FICA has a range of strategic and operational priorities. The game has significant issues around areas such as governance, corruption, scheduling, security and contract security for players and we will continue to work hard on improving each of these.

GC: Would FICA be willing to engage in a dialogue with the members of the ICC Cricket Committee, so as to continue to put forth issues of importance raised by Players/Player Associations affiliated to FICA, despite the FICA not having any representation there?

PM: FICA is always willing to engage with the ICC on any issue. The health of the game is critical to us and we’d like to think the ICC and its Member Boards would be interested in the views of the players. Whether or not FICA has representation on the ICC Cricket Committee wouldn’t stop us from voicing the player’s views.

GC: FICA’s sphere of influence in the governance of cricket has been somewhat limited due to the absence of player associations in India and Pakistan. What do you believe are the hurdles in establishing strong and robust player associations in both Indian and Pakistan? Will you renew efforts to convince players/administrators in India and Pakistan of the need for such associations and their potential benefits?

PM: Culturally, unions are not part of Indian business life. Couple this with a governing body that has a monopoly power over world cricket and it’s pretty obvious that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) don’t want to cede any control to a group of people (i.e. the players) they see as subservient from the outset. To acknowledge FICA as a legitimate stakeholder in the game would be a concession that players have a voice in the game and the current powers in India clearly fear that. Ironically, I think that if you asked the four Boards who have strong player associations whether or not those player associations have been good for the game in their countries, each would say yes.

The other issue is that you will never establish a strong player association unless the players themselves drive it. Pivotal to this is the leadership you need from senior players. Unfortunately I just don’t see this desire with either the Indian or Pakistani players currently. With regards to the future, FICA will always be willing to help the Indian and Pakistani players start their own player associations and would welcome them as members of FICA. However as mentioned earlier, they need to drive this because it won’t work unless they do.

GC: Has FICA historically made any efforts to reach out to players in India and Pakistan? If so, has there been any response from any of the players in India and Pakistan?

PM: We have made several attempts to reach out to the players from these countries, but they clearly don’t want to start their own associations at this stage.  Whether this is because they think they don’t need one or they believe their boards will make life too difficult for them if they do, is debatable.

GC: Corruption in the game of cricket  is in focus again, in the aftermath of the scandals that have rocked the IPL and the BPL. What can player associations tangibly contribute to the fight against corruption? How can administrators be convinced to allow organizations such as FICA and its member bodies to play a role in the development and implementation of anti-corruption education programs?

PM: The introduction of various T20 tournaments in recent years has opened up a new set of issues for the game. We are now dealing with factors such as private ownership, freelance players and an ongoing stream of easily forgotten matches, and each of these increase the risks  of corruption. We think FICA and the respective player associations have a crucial role to play in the fight against corruption. No other body has the relationships nor the level of trust of the players that we do and as such the game should be embracing this and working far more closely with us. Involving us in the education of players, ensuring our agent accreditation programmes address issues of anti-corruption and using us a source to which players can report any anti-corruption issues are all recommendations we have made. There is no doubt that the core of all anti-corruption work is good education and support .This is where FICA and the player associations can really add value. The game needs to better embrace us in this area.

GC: Are players of associate members of the ICC, organised under any player association(s)? How can player associations play a role in the development of the game as a professional sport in such nations?

PM: Players from Associate member countries do not have their own player associations. Discussions have, however been taking place for some time and I expect that we will see player associations in the bigger Associate member countries forming in the near future. They would of course be welcomed into FICA. Player Associations have a significant role in the promotion of the game, no matter which country they are in.

One of the great benefits of a governing body — player association relationship is the ability to formalise an agreement between the game and the players. Once you have this structure in place, those running the game have far greater certainty around what they can offer to broadcasters and commercial partners, how players’ can be used to promote the game and a commitment from the players to dedicate a certain amount of time to the game. All of these things are positives for the game. FICA would certainly like to form good relationships with the Associate member boards and I have no doubt we could add value to their business through the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

GC: Domestic T20 tournaments have proved to be both a boon and a bane to world cricket. They have given the players great opportunities which weren’t there earlier. While at the same time ensuring player payments has been a challenge from some domestic leagues. How does FICA plan to tackle this problem going forward?

PM: There is no doubt that it is currently a good time to be an elite cricketer. There are more opportunities than ever and this is great for current and future players.

An unfortunate by-product of these competitions has been an environment of some Boards not doing their due diligence on those that are investing in the competitions. This has created problems of security of contract payments and this is a major issue for FICA currently. We are attempting to put controls in place such as bank guarantees for player payments, which if successful will overcome the majority of payment problems.
Ultimately the players have the control over this. There are no competitions without the players and FICA is of the strong view that players should not participate in these competitions unless payments are properly secured. If the players decide not to participate until these controls are in place, I’m certain that we will very quickly see these controls put in place.

GC: FICA currently does not have a very active presence on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Can we expect FICA to start voicing its views through such channels, sometime in the near future?

PM: FICA is currently building its capacity across these platforms and you will see a greater presence in the near future. So your readers are aware, the FICA Twitter handle is @FICA_Players and I encourage anyone who is interested to follow us. It is important to note that FICA is an ‘association of associations’ in that we are a collective of seven player associations. Most of FICA’s member associations are very active on the social media, and each of them  carry FICA’s views into their local markets.

GC: Are there any new initiatives that FICA would be launching for its member associations in the days ahead?

PM: There are a numerous initiatives we are currently working on and we will announce these in due course.

(Aditya Shamlal, a graduate from National Law School of India, Bangalore, worked with one of India’s leading corporate law firms in Delhi and moved as Senior Consultant at Gamechanger in October 2012. The above post has been reproduced with permission from Gamechanger)