Wed | Apr 14, 2021

Editorial | Johnny Grave went too far

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2021 | 12:12 AM

Johnny Grave, the Englishman who is chief executive officer of Cricket West Indies (CWI), the organisation that oversees the sport in the Caribbean, has to decide whether his job is that of professional manager or a partisan in the politics of the regional game. Judging from his public interventions in the quarrels over the shambolic postponement of CWI’s annual general meeting and elections late last month, his probable answer is both.

He accused the cricketing authorities of Barbados and Guyana, or at least their directors who failed to report for the March 28 virtual annual general meeting (AGM), of damaging the brand of West Indian cricket, on whose repair “there has been enormous progress over recent years”.

Mr Grave, we expect, won’t be surprised if his comments are interpreted not only as a defence of his own management, but a thinly veiled backing for the regime of incumbent CWI President Ricky Skerritt, who, on the face of it, will now be re-elected unopposed. That will probably mean insulation for Mr Grave.

The larger issue, however, given the nature and tone of his remarks, including his snide question about whether the postponed meeting will really convene on April 11, is Mr Grave’s future working relationship with those directors of Cricket West Indies – in this case, those of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) – who were absent from the earlier session. Unless the BCA withdraws the incumbent directors, there is likely to be tension between them and Mr Grave, which is not good for a CEO and his governors. Guyana, the other offending party, has since elected a new cricket administration, with a different attitude to the events.

DEEPER POLITICS

Although the proximate cause of the collapse of last month’s meeting was the failure of the CWI to distribute its consolidated audited financial report in time, it is obvious that deeper politics, having perhaps to do with a now-petered-out challenge to Mr Skerritt’s presidency by Guyanese Anand Sanasie, was also in play. The Guyana issue may still complicate next week’s AGM.

Article 110 of CWI by-laws requires that the company’s audited financials be sent to members/shareholders at least 14 days before the AGM. That did not happen this time. At least, not the consolidated accounts.

According to Mr Grave, audited financials for the main company were indeed dispatched within the required period. Those, however, did not include financials for the CWI’s subsidiary, Coolidge Cricket Ground Inc, in Antigua and Barbuda. But the difference that Coolidge’s profit-and-loss statement would have made to the main accounts, Mr Grave explained, were so “extremely minor” that the CWI’s audit and finance committees approved the report, pending the consolidation.

He suggested that everyone was aware of the decision prior to the AGM and that there was no objection. Yet, there were the no-shows. “Why would shareholders take any action that damages the brand of their company and damages that reputation is unfathomable to me,” Mr Grave said. “... but I continue to be surprised and shocked by some of the actions.”

That is nothing less than a full-throated attack, which has reverberated across the Caribbean and beyond.

The absence of BCA and the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) delegations meant the lack of a quorum or the required nine of the 12 shareholders’ representatives. Another strategy might have been to turn up but have the meeting declared null and void because of the failure of CWI to meet its statutory obligation. Or they might have signalled earlier that the meeting should be postponed. Why the two bodies didn’t use any of these strategies are not unreasonable questions to be asked of those who made the decisions. The issue, in the context of a partisan election debate, is who would do the asking, or sling barbs over these actions. Not, in our view, the professional manager.

MANOEUVRINGS IN GCB

A partial explanation for the move had, perhaps, to do with manoeuvrings in the GCB, whose then secretary, Mr Sanasie, with Barbados’ Calvin Hope as his vice-presidential running mate, had challenged Mr Skerritt. The day after the abandonment of the CWI’s AGM, however, the GCB , after years of legal wrangling, elected a new executive, of which Mr Sanasie is not a member. Those elections were boycotted by one of the GCB’s constituent members. It is possible that the GCB vote might be challenged in court.

The events in Guyana apart, Mr Grave is aware of the angry campaign two years ago for CWI’s leadership, when Mr Skerritt defeated the incumbent, Jamaica’s Dave Cameron, who had developed a reputation for arrogance during his six years at the helm.

While Mr Grave may be right in feeling that Mr Skerritt’s tenure has brought better leadership than existed before, it may be true that, as he put it, there have been no “shocks” on and off the field. It, however, remains surprising that it is Mr Grave who has jumped feet first into a contentious affair to make these points. Mr Skerritt, who would be expected to be in the thick of the fray, has been uncharacteristically quiet. It may be difficult, without exacerbating the affair, for Mr Grave to publicly walk back his comments. In the circumstances, we suggest that he has a frank chat with the BCA directors on the way forward, ahead of the AGM.

It should be clear that Mr Grave’s misspeak is a separate issue about proposed reform to the management of cricket in the Caribbean and the restructuring of the CWI, as suggested in Don Wehby’s report – and those before it.