Cricket: FTP changes could harm New Zealand

By Dylan Cleaver

One of the architects of the Future Tours Programme does not mince words when discussing the fate of the document.

It will be "an absolute travesty" if it disappears, or even diminishes.

It will become "absolutely devastating" for New Zealand Cricket if the principles of the FTP are abandoned.

It is "absolutely critical" for the overall good health of the game for it to continue.

But Chris Doig, the former NZC chief executive who, along with Sir John Anderson, foisted the FTP upon the cricketing world through logic, politicking and sheer force of personality, also knows that the environment in which the decisions will be made on the document's future is "extremely political".

The FTP is at the top of the agenda at the International Cricket Council meeting being held in Dubai this week, to which NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan flew out yesterday.

You can effectively split the member countries down the middle: the big four - Australia, England, India and South Africa - on one side; the minnows - New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh on the other.

In its current form, the FTP guarantees each team home and away series against everybody else every five years. Marquee series such as the Ashes and the Sir Frank Worrall Trophy are protected.

But now serious noises are being made that the top four want to play each other more often ... and by default, the minnows less.

"The top four countries play each other more anyway," Vaughan said. "They play series outside the confines of the FTP but I guess they want to enshrine that. From initial discussions I don't think we will be playing bilateral series with the big countries less than we are at the moment.

"There are probably question marks around Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but nothing is set in stone yet.

"There are a whole range of issues to consider like the IPL and the Champions League and where do we fit it all in. There are only so many weeks in the year."

Even a minor tweaking to the FTP could have serious repercussions, Doig says.

"All that would do would see cricket revert to how it was in the past. Those four sides would get richer and the cricket economies of New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka would contract. It could be absolutely devastating for New Zealand."

The story of the creation of the FTP is the tale of The Mouse That Roared.

Finding it difficult to sell cricket to commercial partners and broadcasters because of the vagaries of the calendar, Doig and Sir John came up with the concept of the FTP.

Initially it met with plenty of resistance around the ICC table when it was first mooted in the late '90s because the three giants of the game then - Australia, England and the West Indies - had a nice little cash cow going when they played each other but saw little value beyond novelty in entertaining the minor players.

Then India started tapping the vast resources at their disposal, South Africa successfully re-entered the fray and the West Indies faded, creating the Big Four we have now.

Doig said that cricket was very much a hand-to-mouth proposition in the pre-FTP days.

The broadcasting revenues from the ICC tournaments were not apportioned through the member countries like they are now so you made your money off inbound tours.

"For a while there we survived off a constant diet of playing Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe," he said. "The stronger countries organised tours among themselves and rest were left fighting over the scraps."

To make the FTP work, Doig went to work on Australian CEO of the time Malcolm Speed and, when he gained his support, England followed.

He does his best to be tactful around the politics of today's ICC table but it is clear he is not so certain that India, cricket's behemoth, will care as much about the overall welfare of the sport.

"It would be fair to say I would be more comfortable if the interests of the greater cricket community was in the hands of England rather than what we have now.

"Sir John and I couldn't have done what we did without the advocacy of Australia and England, and in the current environment you would have to have India in there."

In fact India hold nearly all of the cards. The commercial success of the IPL has added another revenue stream to coffers that were already bulging with broadcasting cash, the Champions League will add more, and they lord over the "Asian bloc" that dominates the ICC voting.

In scale, New Zealand rates as no more than a pimple on the BCCI's backside.

"We're dispensable to a degree," Doig said. "I hate to say that but it's true."

- Herald on Sunday

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