Monday, June 21, 2010

Cricket Kenya Press release on cancelled tour

18th June 2010


Cricket Kenya is disappointed to inform members of the media that the Kenya cricket team have failed to agree to the terms of the new contract offered to them. As a consequence, they have refused to honour the team’s tour to England due to depart tomorrow, 19th June 2010, where they were due to play three warm-up matches against local sides, in preparation for the World Cricket League Div 1 in Holland. This tour has had to be cancelled.

It is necessary to set out the background to this matter.

The team squad’s annual contracts expired on 31st May 2010 and a new draft contract incorporating materially identical provisions as the previous contracts was submitted to the captain on 2nd June 2010 for approval and signature. All players were offered a 10% increment to their previous retainers under the new contract.

Cricket Kenya held a meeting on Monday 14th June 2010 - at the request of the players - to discuss their new contracts. This meeting was attended by the Captain and the Vice Captain of the national team - accompanied by a group of four persons who identified themselves as “the players representatives”, namely Maurice Odumbe, Steve Tikolo, Kennedy Obuya and Isaiah Odhiambo claiming they had exclusive authority to deal with team affairs.

At this meeting on 14th June, for the first time, various demands were made by these “representatives” involving radical changes to the structure of the contract – including huge increases to players’ remuneration. Various other complaints unrelated to the contract - including a complaint against the behaviour of the Chairman of Selectors - were deferred.

The meeting satisfactorily resolved a number of issues. There were other matters which could not be immediately resolved and which required further consultation. It was specifically agreed and accepted that these items did not impact in any way on the tour which would go ahead unhindered. The players’ retainers, match fees and allowances would be honoured under the proposed new contract notwithstanding these outstanding issues.

Two days later, on 16th June 2010, without any consultation, the “players’ representatives”, claiming to act on behalf of the national team, called a press conference at which they publicly accused Cricket Kenya of failing to look after the national team players, claimed that the Cricket Kenya Board was corrupt and demanded the immediate sacking of the entire Board, selectors’ panel and the national coach. They further insisted that unless the players were given what they wanted in a new contract they would not travel on the European tour.

The player representatives concerned had no authority whatsoever to go public in this way. They are neither accredited formally by the players nor are they part of a properly registered players association. Their sole function was to negotiate terms with Cricket Kenya on behalf of the players. The players’ contracts specifically forbid any player from engaging with the press and to criticize the national board. It is plain that their real motive was intended solely to undermine and embarrass Cricket Kenya.

Cricket Kenya regards this conduct by these “players’ representatives” as outrageous and disgraceful. Having regard to the gratuitously offensive nature of the allegations made and the questionable agenda of the former players involved, the Cricket Kenya Board unanimously resolved not to engage with these “player representatives” any further.

On 17th June 2010, a revised draft contract, which included the points resolved at the 14th June meeting, together with a note setting out the outstanding issues to be resolved was submitted to the team for signature.

On 18th June 2010, the players, through the national captain, insisted that they would only agree to sign contracts and travel to England if their grievances were addressed by the Board in consultation with the players’ representatives first. The Board declined to meet with these representatives but stressed it was ready to meet with the national team players. This offer was refused by the captain who insisted that any such meeting would have to be with the players’ representatives.

Since no agreement could be reached, the tour was accordingly cancelled.

The ramifications of this are likely to be very damaging indeed. Friends of Kenya Cricket have expressed their anger at being let down at the last minute in this fashion by a national team of a country they have continuously supported and, on their previous tour in 2008 paid for, at their own cost. The town of Rochdale had agreed to host several functions for the Kenya team involving the mayor and other senior dignitaries. Several international players were expected to play in, and a number of Kenyan supporters were expected to attend, the games arranged for this tour.

Cricket Kenya estimates a loss of some US$40-50,000 in terms of airfares, accommodation, catering arrangements and match expenses for this aborted tour. This funding forms part of the ICC’s High Performance Grant to Kenya which is dedicated to national team fixtures.

Kenya’s participation in the World Cricket League is also in jeopardy as is its preparation for the World Cup – particularly against any international opposition. The team’s conduct in this matter coupled with its poor showing in recent matches on the international scene is certain to scupper current sponsorship negotiations.

Cricket Kenya stands by its decision and is determined not to be held to ransom by the national team – or by its so-called “representatives”- in this way. It also wishes to point out that the Kenya national team is better remunerated than any other team sport in Kenya.

Unacceptable behaviour

Kenya cricket once again takes a major step backwards. There should be no place in a struggling sport for blackmail, yet this is exactly what the recent actions of the 4 'player representatives' amounts to. Because of this short sighted and ill-timed action, the Kenya team lose not only the chance to warm up properly before an absolutely crucial world Cup qualifier series but also many of the few fans they have. This action shows total disrespect not only to Cricket Kenya who are after all mandated to run the sport but to those fans and well sishers who have gone to so much trouble to accomodate the team.

In regards to money - Kenya cricketers are already well paid. According to cricinfo, the monthly salary of the players ranges from $800 to $1500 per month. I bet there are plenty of other team sports in Kenya who would be very gratelful for that reimbursement. Then there is the factor of what pay is deserved for what performance. So far the team have failed to qualify for 2 consecutive 20-20 World Cups, scraped through the 50 over qualifier and are by no means assured of getting a decent result in the coming event. Results on the field have been patchy at best and certainly would not justify a raise in any other profession.

Then there is the cost of this action. Financially, Cricket Kenya lose $40-$50 000 that was due to paid in airfares, accomodation etc. Goodwill towards the team from benefactors such as Friends of Kenya Cricket must have all but evaporated - something that will have ramifications on future tours and fund raising initiatives. Credebility of Kenya on the international stage has been further tarnished and that will just discourage other, especially Test nations, from playing us. Such fixtures are where the team gets its pay and experience.

I have proposed before that a proper Players Association be formed. This has not been done and therefore it must be noted that the current 'representatives' can not justifiably claim to represent Kenya's players as a whole. Do they even represent all the current squad? Forming such an Association must be done as a matter of utmost urgency, if only to avoid debacles such as this in the future.

Finally a thought about who this action was meant to benefit. Not the majority of players in the country: there is only a fixed budget available to cricket Kenya and the more that is paid to an elite few, deserving or not, the less that is left for development and improving the situation for the majority. It is tough enough supporting Kenya in cricket with the results on the field, behaviour like this makes one wonder if it is really worth it at all...