Irish Cricket’s Brave New World

When it came, the decision to allow Ireland to take its place at the top table of one of World sport’s most powerful organisations was prosaic.

As an item on the agenda of a broad ranging International Cricket Council gathering, the acceptance of Ireland and Afghanistan to full member status went through on the nod with no dissenting voices.

Both countries have led the way on and off the field among the more than 90 associate members of the ICC over recent years but the promotion to become only the eleventh and twelfth Full Members of this exclusive, and wealthy, club has taken ten years of solid work.

That’s what was needed to meet 21 stringent criteria laid down with regard to governance, visibility, engagement with Government, financial stability, capacity for growth and more.

Influence

There have been many hands involved in the ultimate passing of the test with flying colours but none have had such an influence as Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland CEO since 2006.

Having previously spent eight years with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the ICC Deutrom had first-hand experience of how the sport worked globally at an administrative level.

Bridging the gap from a provincial sport as Irish Cricket was at the time required ambition and clarity of purpose. Through successive strategic plans that took shape.

So much so that the latest plan published two years ago, and seen as the crossover point for full member status, had a stated ambition to ‘Make Cricket Mainstream.’

Achieving Full Member Status make that ambition become real. The additional funding which will come is estimated to be around US$5.5 million per annum between now and the next eight-year rights deal where that will climb again.

Success

There are lots of ways to spend it and the month which has passed since the success has presented Deutrom with plenty of options.

“We got here by following a steady path of improvement and refinement of what Irish Cricket is and what it can be,” Deutrom told me this week.

“That has to remain the way in which we go about our business. The task of prioritising the many ways this can benefit all our stakeholders, and really see it take a place as a major sport in Ireland, will take time.”

One of the priorities will be to find a replacement for Senior Men’s Team Coach John Bracewell who will return to his native New Zealand at the end of the year.

It has been a period of transition on the crease with Ireland’s Golden generation of players having to be gradually replaced by young talent.

Expanded

With expanded games programmes both at home and on the international circuit the Irish job is now ever more attractive to the level of World Class coach that is needed.

The Women’s team and the junior team as well as club and provincial tournaments are all growing and will need more investment to continue to do so.

There is also the question of facilities and that is a likely high priority in this brave new world.

Building temporary facilities to host England, Pakistan and others in recent years is expensive but it proved there is a demand for a stadium that has the capacity to hold 10,000 spectators.

“Paying out half a million Euros for each build is inefficient but it is what had to be done,” said Deutrom.

“Looking to where we need to be to hold our place at the top level requires a vision to make that a permanent build.”

Relationships

“Our relationships with Government are strong and successive Ministers have taken the time to understand the benefits that a strong sport can bring.”

“The series we held in May featuring Sri Lanka and New Zealand was seen around the world by 60 million viewers, numbers that compare favourably to any national Irish team.”

The numbers suggest that whatever investment is needed to create a new stadium will yield a multiple in terms of a return to the Irish economy, and there is a particular benefit to be gained in areas of the global marketplace where Ireland needs to build a strong reputation.

Turkish Airlines came on board as main partners of Cricket Ireland in May of this year.

Their involvement is based on the wider global reach that Irish Cricket can deliver and the new found status will doubtless lead to more conversations with global brands, backed up by an already strong portfolio of domestic backers.

Priorities

So the first month has been taken up with thanks and a sorting out of priorities.

Next on the road to the future for Deutrom is a tour of the Regions and clubs to paint a bright picture of what is now possible, but also to manage expectations in terms of how long it will take to get there.

Ireland’s fellow ‘promoted’ nation Afghanistan are already further down the road with 200 staff compared to Ireland’s 30 and 12 regional facilities as opposed to Ireland’s four.

That has been driven by Government and international funding.

It sets a new benchmark for where Ireland needs to get to. The good thing is that we have a great record of achieving those marks to date.

This column first appeared in the Sunday Business Post on July 23rd, 2017.

Similar Articles