Despite mounting questions about its legality, Wilford “Billy” Heaven, a West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) director, is defending the decision to impose a levy as condition for issuance of a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to regional players seeking to play in overseas leagues.
Reports emerged recently that West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard might miss the South Africa domestic Twenty20 (T20) cricket tournament after the WICB made the move of levying 20 per cent of the contract fee on any Caribbean player wishing to participate in such competitions.
But yesterday, the WICB reportedly insisted it had not denied Pollard the NOC.
Other Caribbean stars are expected to also be affected by the NOC levy.
The board claims that revenue raised will be used to aid the development of players in the territories.
Heaven, who is also president of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), suggested that if a balance is not found, West Indies cricket and, by extension, international cricket, could fall at the feet of T20 franchise leagues in the tug-of-war for star players.
“There needs to be some rationalising and some common grounds reached and some understanding amongst all the parties. But it cannot just be that you give NOCs just like that because West Indies cricket will perish if that is the approach,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
The JCA boss continued that there is room to fine-tune how the WICB handles applications for NOCs, but explained that guidelines are required to protect the board’s investment in regional players.
“We have invested a lot of money in our cricketers and there needs to be some balance in the approach to [issuing] NOCs. While we believe that players need to maximise their earning potential, it cannot be at the expense of West Indies cricket because if this practice becomes the norm, it will certainly be detrimental.
“Some of the details may need some refinement, but I am agreeing with the move in principle that we need to set some guidelines and some precedents that need to be followed. We may have to discuss the approach some more, but what we seek to achieve in principle is the way I believe we should go,” Heaven, the chief executive officer of the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, said.
It was reported that Pollard was told he would not be granted the NOC until the WICB had received acceptance of its position from the various boards which feature Caribbean players in their domestic T20 tournaments. News reports also said Cricket South Africa had rejected the WICB proposal. However, reports say WICB CEO Michael Muirhead confirmed that Pollard, who has a contract with Cape Cobras, had actually received clearance to play in the tournament, set to begin Friday.
Pollard, neither a contracted WICB player nor West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) member, was not picked by the West Indies for the Tri-Nation Series in Zimbabwe, set for later this month.
In a statement yesterday, WIPA objected to the WICB move, arguing that it promotes the restraint of trade.
WIPA added that the imposition of a NOC levy is not the answer to the current global predicament which has at times seen International Cricket Council (ICC) members battling for the services of players who are drawn to lucrative domestic T20 cricket franchises.
The West Indies, with a long history of bad blood between the board and players, is one of the most affected.
“WIPA believes an imposition of a NOC levy by the WICB is not the answer to the lack of coherent global scheduling. A centrally regulated and coordinated international cricket programme for all three formats is necessary for the improvement of global cricket. As such, the ICC will need to spearhead the complete restructure of the international cricket calendar.
“WIPA is totally against any new market restrictions or regulations that may limit our West Indian players. The present NOC levy of the WICB promotes the restraint of trade and is open to be challenged legally,” said the release from WIPA.
The players’ union said it is proposing that the WICB meets with WIPA, Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) and the ICC.
FICA has also labelled the WICB move as a trade restriction and warned that it could attract legal challenges.
Insignia Sports, which is said to manage Pollard, along with other leading West Indies players including Christopher Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, has also challenged the WICB, reportedly calling the levy an “unreasonable and unjustifiable fee”.
Heaven, while stressing the need for player loyalty, declined to comment on claims of possible legal loopholes in the WICB decision.
“I can’t comment on the legal aspect of it, but in my own employment I can’t just can’t get up and say to my board that I see something going on for four weeks so I want to go and earn some bigger money and then come back.
“I believe that we need to get to the point of West Indies cricket and territorial cricket being the first call on a player’s time. There needs to be clearly defined windows that are agreed on and outside of that, the players are expected to have some loyalty to territorial cricket or West Indies cricket,” said the WICB director.
The WICB has arranged a window allowing West Indies players to participate in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the globe’s most cash-rich T20 league franchise. Heaven, who confirmed that the IPL pays a fee to the WICB to allow West Indies players to participate in that tournament, said he did not have details of that arrangement. The new IPL season is expected to begin April 2017.