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Thumbs up for Anil, WICB

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Minister of Sport, Anil Roberts and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) must be applauded for their respective decisions taken concerning national and regional identity as it relates to cricket. Although the issues are different, the decision taken by the WICB reinforces the position taken by Minister Roberts. Minister Roberts has rightly asked the officials of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to remove the name Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) from the Red Steel. There are several reasons why his actions are justified.


Firstly, the name ‘Trinidad and Tobago’ should be reserved solely to represent the citizens (whether native or naturalised) of Trinidad and Tobago. Likewise only sporting teams consisting of citizens of T&T should be allowed to use the name Trinidad and Tobago. 


Trinidad and Tobago is not just a name but represents a country’s identity through its history, economics, politics and culture. As such the country’s identity must be protected and defended by its citizenry whether they reside in or outside the country. 


Patriotic pride should be attached to the name. If the national anthem had to be played, whose anthem would be played? And this argument applies not only to Trinidad and Tobago but to every other country in the CPL and the rest of the world. 


Secondly, CPL is a franchise competition. It is owned and operated by a private company using a business model of profit maximisation. Each of the six (6) franchises are privately owned. The franchises comprise of players drawn from a regional and international pool. The government nor the respective local national cricket body does not have any authority in the operation of these franchises. Therefore, it is only logical that these franchises should only bear the non-country names (Red Steel, Amazon Warriors, Trident, Hawksbill, Zouk and Tallawahs) they have chosen. 


The difference between the CPL and the Stanford 20/20 is that the latter allowed for individual countries to compete against each other. Each country and their respective cricket board was responsible for their national team. The free movement of regional or international players was not allowed. Therefore, there was no need to question the usage of Trinidad and Tobago as all the players were bona fide citizens of the country.


Thirdly, the response of the CEO of the CPL Damien O’Donohoe reinforces the above points and the position of Minister Roberts. According to O’Donohoe, “CPL would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the Red Steel team is not a franchise that is based in T&T….The team is not restricted to play its home games in T&T.” 


This comment indicates that the Red Steel franchise whether it is carrying the name T&T or not is not guaranteed to be playing out of T&T.


Franchise sports, in this case cricket, is a new phenomenon in the Caribbean. It represents a professional league comprising of teams representing respective cities. In the Caribbean it seems unclear at this moment as to what necessarily constitute a franchise in terms of its location based on the CPL CEO’s comment about the Red Steel.


The current league is now equivalent to all the other leagues in Test playing countries such as the IPL (India) and Big Bash (Australia). Previously, a country represented the West Indies in the annual Champions League playing against franchises from the other Test playing countries.


As the concept is new to the region, it will take some time to adjust. Even some of the radio commentators are committing the error of calling the games by country for instance Jamaica vs Antigua. 


The organisers can help overcome this situation by encouraging the development of a franchise support base as is done in other professional sports through the sale of franchise merchandize such as jerseys, caps, flags, foam fingers etc. This will go a long way toward separating country from franchise identity and a win-win situation.


The importance of separating national identity from franchise identity has been reinforced by the WICB decision to reject the recommendation of free movement of players by the director of cricket Richard Pybus. Pybus claim is that such a move will improve the standard of play at the regional level. However, the argument put forward by the WICB is that such a move would result in the national identities of the countries being lost. Regional cricket has a rich history of keenly contested inter-island rivalry and this history and tradition must be allowed to continue.


It is important to remember that supporting any event or idea does not mean that you have to agree to everything. Principles must always be respected! Sports has and will continue to be a strong source of passionate national identity. All the best to our national athletes who will be flying the national flag at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.


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