Cricket: Diplomacy a new game for Snedden

By Andrew Alderson

India's enhanced role in world cricket will have big influence on NZ's touring future.

Martin Snedden former international cricketer, now CEO of the Tourism Industry Association. Photo / APN
Martin Snedden former international cricketer, now CEO of the Tourism Industry Association. Photo / APN

Martin Snedden will be hoping he's more Henry Kissinger than Neville Chamberlain as he negotiates financial and touring peace for New Zealand Cricket over the next three months.

His return to the NZC board last year has seen the former CEO thrust back into a role as the country's chief diplomat at the International Cricket Council's head table.

American Secretary of State Kissinger negotiated a detente with the Soviet Union during the Cold War; British Prime Minister Chamberlain declared "peace for our time" months before World War II.

Snedden simply has to conjure up a means by which New Zealand is guaranteed revenue and regular games against the world's best teams without appearing a lapdog to India, Australia and England. Those three countries are behind the latest plan to negotiate the ICC commercial rights and future tours from 2015-23.

There are concerns the result will favour cricket's big three fish at the expense of small fry.

Snedden is adamant NZC interests will be enhanced rather than injured.

"I've walked back into a different world from what I left in 2007. When I exited, there was no IPL [Indian Premier League] and the broadcasting rights were headed in India's direction but that has escalated over six years.

"Do we [NZC] have power at the ICC table? No, not a hell of a lot. Do we have the ability to influence and persuade? A little bit. The critical thing is to identify the things most important to us. That means ensuring the stability of our playing programme and revenue generation."

Snedden stressed it would be helpful if New Zealand performed well in the current series against India.

"That's important as a smaller nation. New Zealand can be a rollercoaster team to follow but we must take every opportunity to prove we're competitive."

The tabled ICC board paper suggested returning to bilateral series organised through respective boards. The scheme holds to the tenet that no one should be forced to host "uneconomic tours". Compliance would signal an end to the Future Tours Programme, a system invented by New Zealanders Sir John Anderson and former NZC chief executive Chris Doig to bridge the gap between cricket's haves and have-nots in the 1990s. India is not an FTP signatory.

New Zealand's current touring status is not expected to change much with rumours of two home and away tours to India, England and Australia across the proposed eight-year cycle. That is something NZC can sell to sponsors and commercial partners. However, there is the concern bilateral touring itineraries are subject to too much flexibility. The current Indian tour is an example: NZC conceded a third test to meet Indian demands.

Snedden wants to maintain Anderson and Doig's legacy.

"It's a fundamental outcome for us to be left with a playing programme which sees us play all the test-playing countries in a four-year cycle like in the FTP.

"Ratification of the existing schedule would be an excellent outcome. It's early stages but we've got a good chance of doing that. I need to stress there's nothing wrong with India, Australia and England working together to produce something for everyone.

"Don't jump to the conclusion what they're doing is not good for world cricket.

"Get this right and the FTP playing programme can be extended to 2023 and we can line it up with ICC events like the World Cup and World T20. That'd be a stable platform to work from."

The Indo-Australo-Anglo proposal will push for a greater revenue pie with rights buyers, meaning New Zealand could expect a bigger share, regardless of the percentage gleaned.

Snedden says fans have to understand India plays a much bigger role in world cricket than when the last deal was negotiated.

"Whatever the formula reached, India will take a greater slice. I think that's fair because they create 70-80 per cent of the revenue. That's not unusual in the world of sporting rights agreements. The Indian market's escalated out of proportion to everyone else since last time.

"We need to remove any doubt over their involvement in 2015-23 tours. If they're fully committed to the programme, that puts the ICC negotiating team in a strong position to exploit commercial rights."

The NZC board will discuss the proposal via phone conference on Wednesday.

What does it mean?
- NZC should gain more revenue as an International Cricket Council full member when the 2015-23 commercial rights deal is drawn up with prospective suitors.
- A need to negotiate strongly despite limited power at the ICC head table to avoid looking like an Indo-Anglo-Australo lapdog (a breed rarely sought)
- Two prospect home and away tours from India, Australia and England from 2015-23 (a similar scenario to now).
- Underlines the power India, Australia and England cricket boards wield for the medium-term future.

- NZ Herald

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