ICC president Isaac considers Olympic cricket bid
International Cricket Council (ICC) president Alan Isaac has said that the organisation will look further into the possibility of bidding for a place on the Olympic programme at future Games.
Speaking to SportsPro at the BeyondSport conference in London this week, Isaac said that there would be sporting and commercial considerations to take into account should cricket choose to put itself forward for Olympic selection at future Games.
Representatives of the ICC, including Isaac, are set to meet other cricket stakeholders during their time in the UK capital ahead of London 2012 and the Olympics will prove a topical talking point.
"That is in a strategic plan that was reviewed," said Isaac of an Olympic bid. "The board agreed at the last meeting that we need to get that analysis underway. I think it's a big step. I mean, it's all a question of whether or not cricket would be admitted anyway, if it applied, and clearly it's way in the future – whether it's 2024 or whatever. It would take up one of those four years – at the moment we have events so, you know, there are commercial considerations as well."
The debate around cricket's place in the Olympic movement has been ignited in recent years by the successes in major competitions of non Test-playing nations like Ireland and, in particular, by the huge popularity of the shortened Twenty20 format, which would be suitable for a Games programme.
"The board agreed at the last meeting that we need to get that analysis underway. I think it's a big step."
A bid for Olympic inclusion would have strong support within the game while IOC president Jacques Rogge has expressed a personal preference for it. It would also be a probable boon for the appeal of the Games in south Asia but the cricketing authorities in India are among those most sceptical about disrupting the commercial balance of the sport.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has also expressed concerns about disruptions to a crowded calendar, not least with the Olympics typically falling during the English season. Individual national bodies retain the rights to bilateral series played in their countries and the ECB has made it clear it would expect to be compensated for any loss of earnings resulting from Olympic participation.
Isaac also pointed out that the ICC would likely need to scrap one of its own tournaments – from which it derives the bulk of its revenues – in order to accommodate an Olympic tournament. The ICC currently runs one global event each year, with the 50-over Cricket World Cup and Champions Trophy played every four years and the World Twenty20 played every two.
"There are a number of obvious advantages to some member countries because of the funding that Olympic and Commonwealth Games federations provide"
With plans advancing for a World Test Championship to replace the Champions Trophy, the World Twenty20 may need to become a quadrennial event and Isaac stressed the importance of "protecting the commercial value" of ICC properties on which "probably all but two of the 106 members" have come to depend for revenue. Nevertheless, Isaac is aware of the possibilities for wider development that a presence at the Olympics would bring.
"There's a subset of that debate," he added, "ie it’s really about multi-sport games. We currently also have an invitation to participate in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which are in Australia, so that's on the agenda to consider the merits of that. And arguably that's a different issue because cricket is built on the back of Commonwealth sport.
"There are a number of obvious advantages to some member countries because of the funding that Olympic and Commonwealth Games federations provide to the sports that have a chance to win medals at these Games. But then there are, as I say, wider cricketing and commercial considerations."
Cricket has not appeared at the Olympic Games since its debut at Paris in 1900, when a Great Britain team beat a France outfit made up of British Embassy staff. The winners' gold medals were retrospectively awarded by the IOC in 1912 – at the time, the game was advertised as part of the concurrent World's Fair.
Lord's Cricket Ground, the home of the ECB and the former base of the ICC, will have a role to play in London 2012 when it hosts the archery events from 27th July to 3rd August.
A full interview with new ICC president Alan Isaac will appear in the September edition of SportsPro. Click here to subscribe.
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