Inside the Region & WICB News
Date Published: 2019-04-01
Region & WICB News
Feature address by Ytannia A. Wiggins at BCA awards
Bridgetown, Barbados, April 1 - (www.bcacricket.org) - The Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) held its awards ceremony at Mahogany Ridge, St. Thomas on Friday, March 29.
Following is the feature address by Ms. Ytannia A. Wiggins, a director of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA). Wiggins is also a tutor at the Barbados Community College and University of West Indies Open Campus.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s an honour to stand before so many cricket legends and stars, and persons who have contributed so much to developing cricket in Barbados and beyond. I was asked to say a few words on the business of cricket in the 21st century – well more than a few. Actually, I was told: “You have ten minutes to fill.” Ten minutes. However, I decided that given the scope of this topic, I would take a Test match rather than T20 approach in this speech. So…with your kind indulgence for the next four to five days (I even wore my whites tonight) or so, I’ll speak on the business of cricket in the 21st century. Don’t worry, I’m just kidding… I’ll keep it to 15 minutes.
Now, many of you will be wondering why they chose me to give tonight’s address.
After all, I have no cricket achievements, and those who have seen me play football know I’m no “Martha.” However, although I was not a star athlete, my roles as an Executive of The Barbados Olympic Association Inc., The Caribbean National Olympic Committees (CANOC), and my involvement in the International Women in Sports movement, allowed me to deal first hand with many issues Barbados and other Caribbean islands face as we move toward professionalizing our approach to sport.
The evolution of Cricket as a profession
Since the first Gentlemen v Players first-class cricket match in 1806, the sport has evolved tremendously. 250 years later, a significant change occurred and in November 1962, that amateur innings was declared closed and one of cricket's lingering anachronisms finally abolished. In so doing, the distinction between amateurs, professionals, and the hybrid of shamateurs was officially scrapped, and everyone became simply “cricketers.”
Over the last 60 years, the sport of cricket has undergone drastic changes in its approach toward professionalism. And over the last 20 years alone there has been an explosion of developments and innovations in the game, including T20 cricket, team and individual rankings, and significant investments in sports science and improved training methods, resulting in the sport becoming a multi-billion dollar industry, comprised of various participating countries, organizations and leagues across the globe.
The women’s game is also gaining considerable momentum, although, in my opinion, matters of contractual equality and support remain issues needing further action. Thankfully, Barbados is leading this movement in women’s cricket regionally and has been globally. I hope we continue to actively make their development a priority as there are many personal and national benefits of women being involved in sports, especially cricket.
Today, cricket is a huge commercial commodity, and the ICC now has a revenue-sharing model much like the International Olympic Committee whereby every major participating country benefits from a global profit sharing model.
Let’s face it! There is no turning back from this reality; we must fully embrace the evolution of the business side of the game.
Love of Country and Sport vs. Maximizing Earning Potential
In Barbados and the West Indies, it is not uncommon to hear passionate and diverse views comparing our past cricketers who seemingly played for the love of country and the sport to today’s cricketers, who some accuse of playing primarily for financial reasons. But, in reality: Do we actually know what many of our greatest past players would have done had there been this much money in the game during the prime of their careers? If we’re honest, we really don’t know what they would have done.
However, what we do know is that for most, playing for the love of country was all that was available to them at the time.
What we also know – as social sciences reveal – is that it is not illogical for people to want to improve themselves. We see this regularly in society: many young men and women who acknowledge the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents determine to make a better life for and their children. I am sure that many of you here tonight are living examples of this natural human aspiration.
Similarly, many of our younger players grew up watching and idolizing far too many of our past cricket legends who sacrificed so much to represent us regionally and internationally, and bring Barbados and the West Indies a sense of joy and pride – many of whom end their careers unable to retire from the sport with the financial security deserving of their immense contributions.
Let’s be honest, who of us, if presented with potentially life-changing income opportunities won’t deeply consider it?
How many of us in this room have chosen or changed jobs or careers to put ourselves and loved ones in what we consider better financial situations? It’s human nature!
Our decisions are based on the options available to us.
Whereas, former cricketers may have only had the options of playing for the West Indies Cricket team and then later county cricket.
Today’s cricketers have far more options available, and it’s not always a straightforward decision of playing for the love of country.
Time vs. Money For instance, they may have to ask themselves, “Do I make myself available to play for the West Indies retainer of 180K; or do I play in a more lucrative league and franchise, and potentially bank over 2 Million in 6 weeks?”
For most of us, that is not an easy question to answer.
This is not only a cricket issue. Many athletes from larger countries in bigger sports have effectively forfeited playing, or chosen not to represent, their countries in favor of potentially greater revenue generating opportunities.
Closer to home, even some of our regional cricketers have chosen not to represent their countries – and even the West Indies – to capitalize on securing far greater paydays. Sunil Naragan comes to mind.
It is not uncommon that such acts are publicly blasted as unpatriotic or ungrateful to the country. And truthfully, sometimes the criticism is well-deserved. But we must always also consider that some decisions are economically rational because cricketers are effectively fungible commodities – meaning they can be replaced, for instance because of injury or poor form, even if not perfectly – so for them, maximizing their revenue during their prime earning years is pivotal.
Because of these dual goals of our cricketers, we must find ways to encourage them to maximize their earning potentials and play for the love of the game and country.
First off, I think we must abandon the misconception that these are mutually exclusive goals. They are not. Sometimes they may conflict, but they can be balanced through open communication, and seeking mutual understanding and compromise, based on a win-win approach.
Second, we need to rethink the concept of playing solely for the love of the game.
This may be useful when dealing with very young or amateur athletes, but it is misplaced when talking about a multi-billion dollar sport. Today, many cricket franchises and leagues are churning out massive profits, and we don’t question whether “love of the game” plays into their business decisions, which often includes growing the bottom line.
Likewise, we are better served by accepting that our cricketers’ love the game, but recognizing they are also businesspersons offering in-demand services in an increasingly sophisticated marketplace.
Additionally, we should consider the substantial opportunity cost many young players undertake by deferring their education and regular work experience to fully committing themselves to perfect the cricket skills needed to become semi- or fully professional cricketers. In real terms, national cricket representatives who don’t generate enough to be financially secure when they retire may enter the job market at a deficit relative to classmates entering the workforce after secondary school or university. Although they may gain from name recognition, they may also lack the specific skill and experience requirements to compete for high-level paying jobs.
Equipping our players
So how can we continue equipping our cricketers to maximize their earning potentials while taking pride in their national and regional duties?
There is no magic formula, but I would like to close out my innings with three suggestions for our administrators, cricketers, and those of you are involved and support cricket to consider:
1. Embrace professionalism
Collectively, we must embrace professionalism at every stage of our development and decisions, because in reality, we are competing against bigger countries with more resources who fully embrace cricket as a profession. Without question Barbadian cricketers have tremendous natural abilities and we have an unparalleled legacy of producing iconic players at the highest levels regionally and internationally.
So for a business approach, our mission must include capturing as much of that multi-billion dollar market share as possible. Practically, that means focusing on occupying as many of the West Indies Teams spots as possible, and then developing as many players as we can to play in the various cricket leagues around the world.
And we must encourage and support more Barbadians becoming part of the professional cricket ecosystem. For instance, as administrators, lawyers, agents, promoters, sponsors, product developers, and highly skilled radio, television, and social media personalities. Global cricket has so many untapped life-changing income and career opportunities that we can actively pursue together, which can significantly benefit us personally and as a nation.
2. Build your Brand, Build on our Brand
Unlike in the past, today Branding is everything. If you play on a Barbados national team or a West Indies team, you represent not only yourself – but the entire country or region, respectively. You represent the best of the best we have. You are always our brand ambassadors. You are the product of the giants who came before you – as cricketers and administrators – who laid the foundations and broke barriers for the opportunities you have today. Chances they never had or even dreamed of.
So, while we want you to go after your own pursuits and cash in on the tremendous opportunities you have, it’s essential you never forget your where you came from and who you ultimately represent.
Always remember, when you play for a foreign club, fans love you when you are on their team. But, if you switch teams, they rarely love you as much. In fact, they may even hate you. But, unlike those fans, the truth is that at the end of the day – and despite the criticisms and ‘busing you may receive about your performances, your appearance, and some of your choices – the ones who love you most will always be US: your people. Because you come from us, you represent us, and we are forever invested in you, even if it doesn’t always seem so.
Your brand is our brand. So while you try to stay relevant and leverage your brand to achieve your best life, don’t be the one who doesn’t contribute back to the system that produced you. Contribute with your time, and contribute with your resources as much as possible. Your contributions are how we advance.
3. Fail Forward and understand the business of cricket
As an athlete, you will face the ups and downs of performances. Every athlete goes through slumps. The key is never to let bad performances define your whole life and career. Instead, “fail forward” by learning from your mistakes and channeling your disappointments and criticisms into positives, is how you take your game to the next level. And never forget, it’s far more important to be a better person than a great athlete.
Finally, it’s in your best interest to understand the business of cricket. Study the history of this great sport. Take time to understand what administrators do, and the rules they are governed by. Pick your battles carefully. Remember, no one actually gets everything they want and often it's a matter of compromise. (Just look at the outcome of the recent CWI elections. Ask Cameron….too soon?)
There’s a right time and place for everything. Sometimes things need to be shaken up right now. But sometimes doing that can cause more harm or become too great of a distraction for you and others. Just like an outstanding performance, you have to learn the best approach to balls you face and similarly persons you face. Placement through the covers or risk for a big six? Be strategic not just emotional and passionate.
Ultimately, make your contribution to the sport we all love matter. Think carefully about what legacy you want to leave. Don’t become a selfish, shortsighted parasite who only takes and doesn’t give back to the sport. Enjoy your moment to shine in the spotlight: you’ve worked hard, and you deserve it. Play hard, smart and with integrity and leave a mark which makes it easier for the next generation, as those who came before you did for you.
Last ball, I promise. We are fortunate to live in an era where cricket is widely played, and the financial
opportunities are tremendous. Let’s seize these great opportunities, to build upon the sacrifices and legacies of our greats, by taking a professional approach to developing the sport at all levels, particularly with our young athletes. From physiotherapy, mental preparation, nutrition, and sports science to embracing and applying best governance and business practices.
Together, we can enjoy the best of what modern cricket offers our cricketers and our country.
Ladies and Gentlemen I have been signaled, that’s it from me: Thank you and good night.