Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Paddy's Sports View 24th May 2005

From "The Emirates Evening Post"

One of the basic tenets of natural justice is that lawmakers should be ultimately accountable to the people over whom they exert justice. This accountability can take many forms and it is by no means only the conventional western model of a parliamentary democracy that provides necessary checks and balances on rulers. But any system that is respected by its people will be one within which they feel they have a voice and in which they feel that justice is fairly administered. Don't worry, gentle reader, "Paddy's Sports View" has not suddenly morphed into a column about constitutional law. But I have been musing on the principles of justice because of what I see to be a trend of increasingly authoritarian and unaccountable behaviour by the rulers of world cricket the International Cricket Council (ICC).

If you have an idle moment I recommend that you visit the ICC’s website http://www.icc-cricket.com/icc/, not because it is particularly exciting, but because you will see there in sharp relief the full panoply of the ICC’s hegemony over world cricket. Included on the site are the “Playing Conditions for Test matches” (24 pages) and for One Day Internationals (30 pages); the ICC Code of Conduct for players (30 pages) and umpires (6 pages) as well as a plethora of other documents which are apparently necessary to govern world cricket today. These also include a four page description of the “Principles of Natural Justice” which clearly seeks to legitimise the ICC’s disciplinary controls. However nowhere in these self created “principles” is there an acknowledgment that for the actions of a law maker to be seen to be fair they must be seen to be accountable to those that they govern.

We are only a few months into the cricketing year and already there have been (believe it or not) nineteen instances of the ICC "court" passing sentences on cricketers for breaches of their "Code of Conduct". So far eight Pakistan players, Kaneira, Akhtar, Razzaq and Inzamam (four times); two Indians, Balaji and Ganguly (twice); one Bangladeshi, Haque; two Zimbabweans, Taylor and Taibu; five South Africans, Kallis, Langeveldt, Ntini and Smith (twice) and one Englishman, Vaughan, have been disciplined. In 2004 there were thirty-four instances of ICC discipline compared with twenty the year before. The workload of the ICC judges is on the increase!

It is difficult to discover what the views of cricketers are on the subject of the ICC’s exercising of its power because for them to criticise what the ICC does would in itself be a breach of the ICC’s own code of conduct and would lead to the player being disciplined! But there are signs that the ICC’s own paymasters (the boards of control of the cricketing nations) are getting frustrated. Recently we have seen Indian board supporting its player Harbhajan Singh in his battle with the ICC over his bowling action. It is only if the individual boards continue to do this that there is any possibility of change.

Whilst the ICC’s “Principles of Natural Justice” do state that players have the right to a fair hearing and to expect that there will be no bias in judgements they nowhere say that the players have any rights in the determination of the processes in the first place. The fact that players are neutered in the ICC’s rule that they must not make any comments about the rulings of officials during (or even after) matches has led to a number of disciplinary procedures (including that against England captain Michael Vaughan earlier this year). This is a clear negation of the principle of natural justice called “freedom of speech” – not surprisingly this is not a principle that appears anywhere in the ICC’s volumes of codes.

The power of the ICC is far too great, in inhibits players, officials and even the executives of ICC member countries from participating in proper debate. It treats the players, in particular, as if they are recalcitrant schoolboys who can only be controlled if volumes of rules are applied to them and if they are disciplined for every breach. I believe that if you want good behaviour from your players the best way to get that is to make them active partners in what you do. The ICC’s rules would be respected far more by players if these players (and/or their representatives) had been part of the process of their creation and if they were active participants in their application.