Cricket Australia’s annual meeting is all set for next Thursday in Melbourne, and what a lap of the Gregorian calendar it will conclude for the national game, its governing body having demonstrated astounding incompetence (and poor faith) negotiating the new pay deal with its golden geese.
At the last AGM, chairman David Peever admitted to keeping veteran chief executive James Sutherland out of those pay talks, which broke down spectacularly while Peever’s man Kevin Roberts ineptly led them. “You have to bear in mind James [is] time-poor,” Peever said 12 months ago. “We had an extremely competent person in Kevin Roberts leading from our side.” Yep, Kevin’s competent leadership has thus far been as propitious to the health of Australian cricket as Neville Chamberlain’s was to the independence of Poland. After a faux global search, Peever – as he always intended – installed his boy Roberts as CEO a fortnight ago, the rest of CA’s directors as ever noddingly invertebrate (all eyes on that all-expenses-paid Europe trip next year for the Ashes).
This was not Peever’s only insincere utterance that day. He also claimed of CA’s performance during the pay dispute that “we made a very deliberate decision we were not going to play this out in the public arena… We hold our heads high that we didn’t ever do that.” Say what? Peever had written an opinion piece for the front page of The Australian just three months earlier in which he attacked everyone but Santa Claus for his own organisation’s ineptitude!
He also reckoned “we have very good relationships with our sponsors and partners,” a fair swag of which have since discontinued or downgraded their various agreements with cricket: from Milo to Qantas to CBA (and then even its replacement Magellan). Even Matador barbecues walked from domestic 50-over cricket, replaced by a B2B insurance broker.
Peever – previously Rio Tinto’s chief PR guy in Australia – has become something of a comical figure in the highlands of corporate Australia, and rightly so; our top business leaders marvel at his reign’s calamity, as slack-jawed as cricket’s peers across sport administration.
Yet next week – again by virtue of his board colleagues’ cowardice and the inertia of cricket’s state associations – he is set to become the first chairman of Cricket Australia ever to be elected to a second term; on this front, farcically, he’ll be better than Bradman.
As reward for what?! The pay war and sponsors’ flight aside, Peever has abused an incumbent broadcast partner (describing Big Bash pioneer Network Ten as “bottom feeders”), then put all international ODI and T20 cricket on pay television (that went well in England), then scoured the earth for a new CEO only to find him in the cupboard at Jolimont Street (presumably near the one in which the hot breakfasts are made). And just for good measure, he presided over the sandpaper affair, after which he announced an “independent” review of Cricket Australia’s culture by ethicist for hire, Simon Longstaff.
The states are CA’s shareholders and Peever needs two-thirds of them to vote for him to remain in the job he’s been so spectacularly hopeless at. And the states were expecting a copy of Longstaff’s report a fortnight ago. Their wait continues. Why? Do its damning findings on Jolimont Street under Peever, Pat Howard and Ben Amarfio require more redaction than the 9/11 Commission Report did on the House of Saud? Would an ethicist really allow his independent conclusions to be edited by their subjects? And is Peever really going to try keeping the recommended consequences (for administrators; the players were strung up on sight) of cricket’s biggest scandal in a generation in his bottom drawer until after he’s secured himself another lap in the comfy seat?
There’s no punchline here, sadly. The great game has been captured by a coalition of pernicious cretins and abject weaklings.