Malcolm Speed, the former Cricket Australia (CA) chief, wants rumblings from state associations for change to the CA on board to be put on hold until after the game has negotiated the financial shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kevin Roberts’ dramatic departure from the chief executive’s chair on Tuesday, after the CA board installed Nick Hockley as the interim CEO, has not entirely worked as the governing body’s desired circuit-breaker. The state associations in particular have been vocal about the opportunity to return the board to a more representative model than the current system of nine independent directors.
Speed, while noting his personal preference for a fully independent board, counselled the associations to work collaboratively on seeing cricket through this summer and into the world at the other side of covid-19 without further destabilising the central body’s governors.
“I’d be surprised and disappointed if at a difficult time like this there was a move on the board,” Speed told SEN Radio. “They went through a very detailed review process seven or eight years ago with Colin Carter and David Crawford, and they’re two very sensible governance experts, they’re highly regarded. They put this new structure in place, it was a staged process where the states gradually gave up their right to nominate people from within their association and they’ve ended up with an independent board of directors.
“When you look at it, there’s some very highly credentialled directors on that board. So I think from a governance perspective, from a theoretical perspective, it is a very good structure. What we’re seeing at the moment is the states think they’ve been alienated a bit from the process and perhaps they want to get their nominees, people from within the state structure back onto the board. I think that would be a backward step, I’d be disappointed if that were to happen.
“I think they’ve just got to tough it out now and get through this difficult stage and perhaps next year – although the effects of covid-19 are going to go on into next year – I think they’ve got to tough it out and revisit that next year.”
Though Earl Eddings replaced David Peever as CA chairman later in 2018, Speed reckoned current directors should cast minds back to their calm handling of the Newlands scandal and aftermath as an example of how to tackle the current swirl of issues around them. He also acknowledged that they could not escape culpability for CA’s stumbles in addressing perceived and actual risks from coronavirus.
“I was impressed with the way Earl Eddings and the CA board handled the sandpapergate crisis, they kept their heads down, they got on with the job, there was nothing radical or extraordinary that came out of the board,” Speed said. “They got on and did their job, unemotionally and effectively, and I think they’ve probably got to go through a stage like that.
“A chief executive doesn’t just pop up and say “I’ve put 80 per cent of the staff on 20 per cent of their salary”, that has to go through the board. The whole process, the state cuts, player payments would’ve gone through the board. Kevin then becomes the messenger, he didn’t handle that side of it very well. But certainly, the board would be right across those decisions. There’ll be comment that the board is equally responsible, that’s difficult to avoid.”
As for Roberts, Speed had previously expressed reservations about his handling of the chief executive’s role after succeeding James Sutherland in 2018, and concluded that the damage done by his missteps during the fractious 2017 pay dispute with the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) had simply been too great a hurdle to overcome when another crisis arrived.
“I think it started before he became chief executive. He had a pretty stern dress rehearsal with the player dispute in 2017 and that didn’t go well,” Speed said. “It seems to me he lost the respect and trust of the players. As an old mentor once said to me, ‘respect and trust are like virginity; once you’ve lost them they’re mighty hard to get back.’
“I think that’s what happened to Kevin. He lost trust and respect. When he came into the job he had time to work on that. That didn’t go very well. Then he stumbled, he didn’t deliver the message very well. Clearly, there’s a financial message with CA. Even now it’s not clear what the financial message is but he certainly stumbled with that.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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