Perhaps the only surprise about Cricket Australia being labelled arrogant this week was that the viewpoint came from Cricket Australia.
The wider sporting public it has become so distant from has long held that opinion about the administrators of both our nation’s major sports.
Examples of the AFL’s arrogance – and its legacy – are not hard to find.
Policies of trickling out fixture announcements over a week to maximise coverage, tinkering with rules every off-season and persisting with a Gold Coast franchise nobody follows while ignoring an entire state have been irritating die-hard fans for years.
The result of taking fan loyalty for granted has been its gradual erosion.
For just one example, there was the observation from former AFL player Sam Lonergan at The Examiner’s junior sports awards last week that it was a concerning sign of the times when Launceston Football Club had fewer junior players registered than neighbouring soccer club Riverside Olympic.
Lonergan also found it hard to digest that the AFL would allow showpiece medals to be presented by the man in charge during the Essendon supplements saga.
However, when it comes to sporting arrogance, Cricket Australia wrote the book – or rather it commissioned The Ethics Centre to write it.
A week ago, CA issued an open letter addressed “to you, our Australian Cricket Family”.
Personally signed (on the email) by chief executive Kevin Roberts, it said: “We can’t change the past, but we will learn from it and, working together, we’ll do what we can to make you proud.”
The attached letter referred to “events during the Australian men’s cricket tour to South Africa in 2018”.
They appeared to be tiptoeing through a minefield but presumably by “the past” and “events” CA was referring to what could more accurately be described as the “unashamed, premeditated cheating” of rubbing sandpaper on the match ball.
Just a suggestion to assist with clarity.
Anyway, back to the topic.
CA said it had appointed The Ethics Centre to conduct an independent organisational review.
The resultant 145-page report contained 42 recommendations but any suggestion of it making much difference could be found in the first of them.
It began: “RECOMMENDATION #1 – Australian Cricket establish, as a standing body, an Ethics Commission” but then added: “The Australian Cricket Ethics Commission would have no formal powers.”
Clearly hard-line lessons-learned stuff.
Much like the Australian ODI batting order, the lustier blows were to be found down the order.
“RECOMMENDATION #19 – “The leadership of CA accept its share of responsibility for the circumstances that gave rise to the ball-tampering incident at Newlands – not as a matter of direct, personal culpability but as a demonstration of responsible leadership and accountability.”
“Ball-tampering” presumably refers to those “events”.
CA’s response to Recommendation 19 made for interesting reading.
“The Board, CEO and Executives of CA accept its share of responsibility and wants to use the recommendations in this report to improve the game of cricket in Australia.”
This report came out last Monday, the same day that CA chairman David Peever referred to the ball-tampering in South Africa as a “hiccup”.
In that 7:30 interview, Peever repeatedly evaded Leigh Sales’ questions why he hadn’t resigned.
The following day, Ian Chappell said if the buck genuinely stopped with Peever, why was he still at liberty while Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were all doing time.
It took another two days and a phonecall from Cricket NSW chairman John Knox for Peever to “accept [his] share of responsibility” and resign.
The only use of the “a” word in the report came in the following paragraph finding (the second half of which was redacted for some reason).
“Multiple comments note that the Spirit of Cricket is not widely modelled by the men’s national team either on or off the field. On-field behaviour, particularly abusive sledging, is viewed as contrary to fair play and evidence of an overly expressive, arrogant and disrespectful approach to their opponents and to the game.”
So CA never actually called itself arrogant. It merely commissioned a report in which a third party called it arrogant.
However, CA wasn’t done with actually being arrogant.
On Friday, it sent out an email entitled: “Your guide on how to watch the first ODI.”
The email contained loads of information and “helpful” links when really all it needed were the three words: “Subscribe to Fox.”
A greater example of CA’s arrogance would be hard to find. At a time when it is in full damage-limitation let’s-pretend-we-value-the-public mode, it oversees the first international match in Australian shores that is not being shown on free-to-air TV.
The attendance for the match of 24,342 was less than half the capacity at Perth’s glorious new Optus Stadium which has previously attracted 53,781 for an ODI against England, 59,608 for an AFL final, 67,522 for a soccer friendly involving Chelsea and 114,031 for back-to-back concerts by Ed Sheeran.
Hard to pinpoint why the public could be losing interest in Australian cricket.