Cricket West Indies (CWI) President Ricky Skerritt has quashed speculation linking the West Indies tour of England to a US$3 million loan to CWI by the ECB in May, a loan that eventually became the subject of an ICC ethics inquiry. Skerritt also denied that the loan ensured CWI’s backing for Colin Graves – the outgoing ECB head – for the ICC chairman’s position, elections for which are due by July.
Skerritt said instead the loan was a “helping hand” given the direness of CWI’s financial situation, one exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Skerritt said CWI was transparent with ICC about the need for a short-term loan, and ECB’s involvement. He said it seemed to him that the issue was being “blown up” for “political” purposes only, mostly by “mischievous persons who have little genuine care for the wellbeing” of cricket.
Skerritt said the only pre-condition set for the tour was for the safety and security of his players and once that was assured, the tour would go ahead as it was part of the ICC FTP agreement and the World Test Championship
“It was just a matter of when the tour would take place and if the ECB could assure the CWI medical experts that the health risk would be minimal to ensure the safety of our players and staff.” Skerritt told ESPNcricnfo on Friday. “Money had nothing to do with our final decision to make this tour. Holding out a hand for a pay-off is not the way CWI does business.”
CWI had approached the ICC this April “seeking an advance” of $3 million – an advance that would be taken against the annual distribution the ICC gives member countries twice a year – in January and July.
The ICC, it is understood, asked CWI to provide an external audit of future cash flow considering it was going to make the payment three months in advance, a forecast CWI could not provide quickly or with any certainty, given the circumstances of the pandemic were outside its control.
Additional pressure on CWI came from pending player match-fee payments, accrued since January this year, as well as the need to pay its staff. The pandemic worsened the situation, as it scuppered the finalisation of the board’s global broadcast partnerships for their home series against New Zealand and South Africa.
“We needed cash urgently,” said Skerritt. “The communication [with ICC] was beginning to look like it would take quite long to be approved and CWI had no other reliable source of cash at that time.”
It was then Skerritt approached the ECB.
“CWI asked ECB if they could make the advance instead, with the ICC providing the security,” he said. “ECB agreed on the basis that ICC would then pay the advance back directly in July. ICC Finance officials were always fully aware of the transparent arrangements and soon became a legal party to the loan agreement.”
‘No intentional violation’ – ICC Ethics Officer
Not everyone was convinced at the ICC, however, and an informal inquiry asked its Ethics Officer to probe any potential impropriety. Both the probe and the Ethics Officer’s clean chit were not made public. However according to the Indo-Asian News Service, the enquiry was set up at the behest of ICC chairman Shashank Manohar who is reported to have asked the question internally of whether it was related to the upcoming elections to the ICC chairman’s post. According to the IANS, the Ethics Officer received the request on April 30.
The Ethics Officer concluded there was no “intentional violation” committed by either of the two boards. He said that it was “clear beyond any doubt” that the CWI and ECB arrangement was “in accordance with their pressing and necessary business and cricket” reasons.
“I attest that I do not believe the loan was made or received in the context of, or in relation with the matter of the forthcoming election for a new ICC Chairperson,” the officer stated.
‘This is all political’
“The negative result of the ICC ethics investigation was predictable,” Skerritt said. “The investigation upset me personally because of the risk to my own integrity, especially when it began to look like I was a collateral damage. And it was extremely unfair to Colin [Graves], who was responding to CWI’s request to expedite an advance which ICC would likely have given anyhow. The loan funds were meant for our working capital to keep CWI going for the period between then and when we are due to get the next ICC distribution money from the ICC in mid-July.”
According to Skerritt this was not the first time CWI had borrowed money from another Full Member country. When he took charge in 2019 Skerritt said CWI had been saddled with a US$6 million loan it had taken in 2016 from the ICC and a similar US$2million advance in 2018 from the Bangladesh Cricket Board. “I was not [CWI] president at the time when we borrowed money from Bangladesh, and I have no idea if it was followed by an ICC ethics investigation then as well.”
“There are too many people in and around cricket who are more concerned about politics than about cricket,” he added. “That’s what this is about. It is being blown up for political purposes only, mostly by mischievous persons who have little genuine care for the wellbeing of cricket.”