Less than three months after Warren Deutrom took over as CEO of Cricket Ireland the senior national men’s team took part in their first ever World Cup. The defeat of Pakistan on St Patrick’s Day 2007 sparked an interest in Ireland at home and abroad that has shown no sign of slowing down since.
In fact, since last week’s triumph in the ICC Trophy in the Netherlands, Ireland has successfully qualified for six World Cup tournaments in a row, rising from 13th in the world to the clear leader of the second tier pack of cricketing nations and drawing audiences around the world that run to many millions.
The first time was down to a combination of the management of Adie Burrell and a rare gathering of talented players whose time had come.
The ability to maintain that level of performance off the pitch as well as on it though, has been in many ways down to Deutrom’s ability to see the big picture, to plan in meticulous detail and to deliver in a sport that many would have considered alien to Ireland but which is now the envy of many with it’s growing player base, expanding interest to sponsors and regular coverage in a mass media that goes where public demand leads it.
In the Sunday Independent of July 14th 2012, a full one and a half pages were given over to the sport, more than to any other sport outside of Gaelic Games.
Deutrom’s original career ambition was to be a journalist. It was in searching the classified job ads for a break into this field that he saw an advertisement for a role selling sports hospitality packages with Keith Prowse.
It was a tough sales led environment but Deutrom thrived, rising to head a team that at one point included the FAI’s Commercial Director Max Hamilton.
The 1999 Cricket World Cup was to be held in England with a number of games played in Wales, Scotland, Holland and Ireland and Deutrom applied and got a position as one of the event managers.
He ended up responsible for 8 of the 21 venues being used in the competition.
“One of my main memories from the tournament was a cold day in Clontarf where Clive Lloyd of the West Indies was sitting swaddled in blankets to try and keep warm. In May.” said Deutrom speaking to Sport for Business as part of our Leaders in Sport Series.
“Courtney Walsh was man of the match that day and it was a fine introduction to cricket in Ireland.”
A role in the Marketing Department of the England and Wales Cricket Board followed on from the tournament and it was a critical time for the sport in its traditional home.
Defeats to India and South Africa meant that the host nation failed to come out of the group stage but Chairman Ian McLaurin was laying down a marker for the transformation of the sport from its amateur run ethos to a professionally run organisation that was increasing revenue and pumping #7 million a year into grassroots and under age cricket.
McLaurin’s plan was to implement over ten years and would lead to England once again leading the world as a cricket nation on and off the field of play.
The principles made a mark on Deutrom who moved to Monaco in 2002 with the International Cricket Council and began to forge contacts around the world as he built a reputation as an event planner that got things done and working like clockwork.
“It was a critical time for international cricket when the bundling of international broadcast rights came into being and the structures that exist now whereby the money attracted into the sport is used strategically in developing as well as established nations.”
“The ICC Trophy was held in Ireland in 2005 and we organised matches in 18 venues around the country. It was a great introduction to the sport at every level and the tournament was a success for Ireland who qualified for the 2007 World Cup through finishing runners up to Scotland.”
“The opportunity to take over as CEO of Cricket Ireland arose the following year and it was a good time with my wife being Irish and our first child making the constant travel of working with the ICC a little less attractive than it had once been.”
“We were 13th in the world but were making progress and it was a great chance to take the reins and make a difference based on what I had picked up around the world.”
“One of our first management meetings was to plan for the West Indies and I asked the question, what if we qualify for the second phase?”
“It would have meant rescheduling of domestic games and planning for players extended stays away from home and seemed like a naive idea at the time but managing tournaments had taught me to prepare for each eventuality and victory over Pakistan made it look very prescient in hindsight.”
Deutrom’s plans for Irish Cricket extend towards full test status by 2020. At the time of his appointment this must have seemed like flying to the moon but seven years in and half way to the goal plans are well on target.
His role as a representative of the associate nations on the ICC Chief Executive’s Committee gives good insight into what is required at the elite level and there is a detailed programme mapped out to ensure that Ireland is ready to become the eleventh nation to step up.
“Much of the scorecard criteria is based on a strong business case as well as performance on the pitch.”
“We set out to develop the right structures that would lead to a consistent quality of player coming through and a proper sustainable base for the sport at grassroots level.”
“Cricket is a wealthy sport with broadcasting rights in India, Britain, Australasia and the Caribbean attracting significant sums and billions of dollars being distributed to the sport.”
“75% is distributed equally among the top nations and 25% towards those like Ireland at present that are building a stronger base.”
“Achieving full test status requires a strong domestic set up and the inaugural Inter Provincial tournament this year is a vital bridge for players from club level to international.”
“It is a key step along the way to where we want to be and is in many ways even more important than the World Cup qualification.”
“We now have a base which will enable more of our top players to develop at home and that inspires the next generation to stick with cricket as well.”
“We have climbed from 26,000 registered players to 41,000 and the number is rising rapidly. Our next target is to have 50,000 playing by the end of 2015.”
“Once you have a base like that talent transfer becomes easier to implement and you can begin to bring in players that might never have experienced the game but who are attracted by the possibility of a professional career and the ability to represent Ireland.”
Deutrom’s eyes burn bright at the idea of cricket bats being carried in the same way as hurleys are in Kilkenny, or recently in Ringsend and a strong development team within schools and colleges is reaping a rich reward.
The Inter Provincial match staged at Trinity College drew a large and appreciative crowd and some of those who watched that day will be among the 10,000 sell out crowd expected at Malahide on September 3rd for the one Day International against England.
“We are building across all aspects of the game from senior to juvenile, men and women.”
“There is a great team of people to bring the dream to life from Phil Simmons and Kevin O’Brien on the pitch to a great group of management and staff behind the scenes and very supportive sponsors like RSA and Toyota who have helped lift us to the level we want to be.”
“Ireland is hosting more international cricket than many might have dreamed of in years gone by and we have broken through into the mainstream.”
“When Des Cahill pondered on twitter last week as to what a cricket team made up of Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh and other Kilkenny hurlers might look like it was a sign of how far we have come.”
“There is still a long way to go but we are heading in the right direction and picking up speed.”
There is no question that in Deutrom Cricket Ireland has the right man putting his foot on the accelerator and in less time than many might think possible, the sport will be a full and welcome mainstream sport from Belfast to Bantry and all points in between.