Work is being done on reforming domestic cricket and restructuring the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). Both the options are tough as the authorities have treaded a very difficult path for making both sectors result oriented.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) task force on domestic cricket recently held meetings with the heads of departments and regions. The outcome of these meetings is not encouraging as both departments and regions rejected their proposed merger.
Sources in the task force told me that although regions and departments rejected the idea of their merger but the final decision would be taken by the PCB.
There is still a lot of work left as several matters are to be finalised. The task force, headed by WAPDA chairman Lt Gen (retd) Muzammil Hussain, will hold a few more meetings to finalise the matter. The task force will submit its report with the PCB and according to an insider the Board will implement it by the end of this month.
Under the proposed model, only eight teams will feature in first-class cricket after merger of departments and regions. The same number of outfits will take part in second-tier cricket. The structure will be based as usual on the promotion and demotion system which is already in force in the current system.
The sources in the task force said that after the merger both departments and regions would have their specific roles in handling the affairs of their teams. They claimed that the role of departments was not being minimised. There would be a Board of Governors of each team with representation from both the region and the department.
The sources told me that departments are reluctant to accept the model because they find it unworkable. They are wondering how they will work with regions.
The regions have been told that they have big administrative issues which hamper the proper growth of cricket in their respective areas.
The sources said that it is the PCB in fact which supports the cricket of regions. The Board spends Rs1422 million on regional cricket in a year. And in return what regions do is nothing, they said.
The sources told me that the proposed model would work like the counties in England. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been a staunch advocate of city cricket. Although the proposed model may squeeze the jobs of cricketers, it may make first-class cricket very competitive as only quality players will be able to play in the country’s top cricket. As a result the competition will be healthy and the PCB will get good players for the national team.
The new model, if adopted, will enable the teams to establish strong administrative and financial systems.
A source close to the matter told me that it was time for regions and departments to see how the model works. If it did not succeed then it could be revoked.
The new model, if implemented, will enhance the viewership of the domestic cricket provided the teams are given appropriate names based on cities.
In order to improve domestic cricket such bold steps will have to be taken.
Now we come to the PSB. The task force on sports headed by the PCB chairman Ehsan Mani has already submitted its recommendations with the ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC).
A source who claims to have had a cursory look at the recommendations told me that his conclusion was that the PSB was going to be abolished.
The source, who also heads a major federation, was quick to add that abolishing the PSB was not the right thing. A senior PSB official told me that in the past too efforts were made to abolish the PSB but it could not be done. The task force has not taken input from major stakeholders like the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and national federations.
The POA vice-president Syed Aqil Shah told me in an interview a few days ago that he was a member of Awami National Party (ANP) but he was ready to give his advice to the government on sports reforms issue as he has been serving sports for the last 40 years.
Federations say that whatever the government wants to do should be done quickly. If it does not intend to give grants to federations it should tell them clearly and should not waste their time.
They say that since taking charge the current government has not released a single penny to any federation which has been creating problems for them in fielding their athletes in international events.
“Olympic qualifiers are ahead and in some sports disciplines the qualifiers have already started but the government has not prepared any plan. IPC Minister Fehmida Mirza will show to the PM the amount her ministry has saved by halting sports at the end of the financial year,” a federation official told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).
Most of the leading athletes of various disciplines are managing their own practice as there are no official camps operating. Since Pakistan featured in the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia in August and September last year, nothing has been done.
I asked a senior official of a federation the other day about its plan of sending its leading player for training abroad. He replied the federation tried its best to manage a tour for the athlete but it failed. This shows how much our federations are dependent on the government grants. They should now make themselves ready for financing their sports. If the government decides that federations should work as corporate bodies like the PCB then what will they do? If Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF) can manage sending 60 fighters for different competitions through the assistance of various sponsors within two and a half months, why can’t the other federations attract sponsors?
A senior most official of a federation told me that the government’s role in handling sports should be curtailed to one third of the current involvement. He said that in that case only those people would remain as heads of the federations who had passion for the game. They would strive to find sponsors for preparing and fielding their athletes in international events. I personally believe that achieving high goals in sports without government support is not easy but federations should do something for managing finances for their players so that they could at least feature in routine international events.