‘As chief executive you’re the cement between the stones,’ says KNCB CEO Monica Visser, ‘and it’s your job to bring together all the elements of the sport to achieve the ambitions we all share.’
Visser was new to cricket when she took on the CEO’s role six months ago, but she had thirty years in sports administration behind her, most recently a highly successful spell in charge of the Dutch Rowing Association.
‘We had some cricket lessons in primary school,’ she remembers, ‘but I had no idea of how big the game is across the world until I started doing my homework when I applied for the job, and it was astonishing to see how significant the game is elsewhere when it has such a small impact in the Netherlands.’
Visser’s arrival at the KNCB came soon after the election of a new Board, and she sees that as an opportunity to draw a line under the turbulence of the previous year and to create the stability which the sport needs if it is to achieve its ambitions of growth in participation and continued progress at the highest levels.
‘It’s all about restoring trust,’ she says, ‘and we have to overcome whatever damage or disappointment may have existed by actually doing what we preach: it’s not enough to make promises, we have to deliver.’
There is no question that there is much to be done if cricket is to successfully raise its profile in the Netherlands, and Visser, like Guido Landheer’s new Board, is clear that all those who care about the game will need to be fully engaged if playing numbers are to be increased.
She and her team have been conducting a series of regional meetings with the clubs to brainstorm about the KNCB’s ambitions, and there are plans afoot to grow the game in Eindhoven and to re-establish cricket in Groningen in the country’s north and in Arnhem in the east.
Part of Visser’s steep learning curve was a visit, shortly after taking up her new post, to the ICC annual conference in Birmingham in July, where she was able to establish contact with other top administrators, and where she says she was inspired by the ICC’s women’s initiatives such as 100% Cricket.
‘Getting more women and girls into the game is one of our highest priorities,’ Visser declares, ‘and we’re delighted that we have been able to find sponsors for the women’s game.’
Indian tech company HCL has supported the Dutch women’s current visit to Thailand, and the KNCB is on the point of announcing a significant sponsorship deal for women’s cricket more generally.
That is part of a sustained campaign to find new sponsors for Dutch cricket, reducing the KNCB’s dependence on funding from the ICC.
‘We have to match our narratives about Dutch cricket’s journey with what companies need from the sponsorship they offer,’ says Visser, ‘and one of the benefits of our international programme this summer was that we were able to talk to potential sponsors while our men’s team was in action.
‘But there are many other things we need to do,’ she adds, ‘like employing national team players, both men and women, as ambassadors for the game, revamping our competitions to make them more attractive and to make cricket a year-round game by running more indoor competitions, and working with local government to give clubs better access to playing facilities.’
Visser acknowledges that the inability of Dutch cricket to get coverage on free-to-air television in the Netherlands, even during the recent ‘Summer of Cricket’ which featured attractive games against the West Indies, England, New Zealand and Pakistan, remains a significant limitation to the Bond’s desire to bring the game to a wider public.
And she admits that there are ‘visibility issues’ around the increasing use of live streaming to make coverage of international and club cricket more widely accessible.
‘As well as improving our existing website,’ she points out, ‘we will be looking at creating a fan-based platform which we can use to extend our reach, as we did with rowing.
‘There’s so much positive energy just now, in the KNCB organisation and in the clubs, and we have great stories to tell.’
One of those stories, of course, is about the success of the national men’s team, which qualified for the next T20 World Cup by beating South Africa last month, and Visser is keen to capitalise on that achievement.
‘We have decided to bring together an expert group,’ she says, ‘drawn in part from other sports and from abroad, with a clear remit to review and (re)design our high performance structure.
‘We know that it’s an area which calls for serious investment, and we want to make sure that we have the best possible structures so that that money will be well spent.’
One significant change which has already been made is that Visser has taken over as CEO of the limited liability company (BV) which is responsible for running major events, bringing that entity back under the unified control of the KNCB.
‘We are currently finalising the financial outcomes of the “Summer of Cricket”,’ she comments, ‘and will be reporting to the KNCB general meeting on 10 December.
‘Beyond that, the Board has yet to decide on the future of the company, which isolates the financial risk from major events and brings tax advantages for the KNCB.’
With her emphasis on uniting everyone involved in Dutch cricket – Board, KNCB staff, clubs and fans – in a single team, Visser knows that, as she says, ‘small steps can become big steps’.
She is impressed by the number of people in the game who ‘want to get things done’, and compares herself to the DJ whose job is to manage the deck in order to create a harmonious whole.
‘There were lessons we had to learn,’ she adds, ‘but now we’re in a position to move forward, bringing together the many passionate people in Dutch cricket to achieve the growth we so desperately need.’
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A breath of fresh air! Ambitious article of the new CEO. If only half the plans will be achieved they still will
make a big difference especially for women’s cricket!