Cricket Australia has been branded “arrogant” and “dictatorial” by stakeholders in a scathing independent review that has made 42 recommendations, calling for a revamp of winning bonuses, a rejigged code of conduct, greater transparency and a red-card system.
The Ethics Centre’s 145-page report, compiled after CA asked the think tank to conduct a full and frank assessment after the Cape Town cheating scandal, is a snapshot of the views of 469 people in the industry.
The seminal document paints a grim picture of the governing body’s culture and its link with the environment in which Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft erred, noting “perceived causes of the ball-tampering incident at Newlands significantly overlap with the perceived current state of cricket in Australia”.
The report highlights concerns about the “commercialisation of cricket”, a win-at-all costs mentality, “multiple instances of disrespect running through CA”, the “normalisation of verbal abuse in Australian men’s cricket” and that the “incidence of verbal abuse extends beyond player behaviour”.
The executive summary notes that “CA is perceived to say one thing and do another”.
The most common description of CA is as ‘arrogant’ and ‘controlling’. The core complaint is that the organisation does not respect anyone other than its own. Players feel that they are treated as commodities.
“The ball-tampering incident … can be seen as an aberration. It can be dismissed as the failure of a handful of players.
“However, to think this would be mistaken. We have spoken with players who are reluctant to challenge the errant behaviour of their teammates – just in case it puts them off their game and leads to a loss.”
Every measure suggested by The Ethics Centre has either been accepted by CA’s board or is under consideration, with the exception of a request that Test and ODI players are excused from playing Twenty20 Internationals to ensure they are available for at least two Sheffield Shield games and one grade game per summer.
The review calls on umpires to be empowered to remove players from the field in Tests, first-class and grade games after one informal warning in cases of continuous abusive sledging, and that players penalised for on-field behaviour should not be eligible for awards like the Allan Border medal.
“People expressed deep regret over CA’s tolerance of poor behaviour among elite male cricketers and the origination’s consistent failure to hold players accountable,” the review noted.
“A lack of appropriate sanctions, including the absence of ‘call out culture’, has allowed behaviour by players and coaches to diverge from community standards.
“A culture of disrespect for the opposition, as seen in the common practice of abusive sledging, runs through Australian domestic and international cricket, to a degree not practised by other nations.
“There is nothing enjoyable or fraternal about abuse. It is simply crude and brutal.”
The review suggests tweaking player performance bonuses (linked to winning and world rankings); and that formal leadership training be provided so players can improve their “capacity to display moral courage”.
The review recommends the minutes of CA board meetings are published (subject to issues of confidentiality), the code of conduct includes reference to CA’s behavioural blueprint, and that sledging is included under CA’s anti-harassment code for players and support staff.