Netherlands eyes Full Membership by 2025/26

Netherlands T20 World Cup
Netherlands T20 World Cup

The Netherlands will seek to become an ICC Full Member by 2025/26, the chair of the Dutch governing body (KNCB), Betty Timmer, announced at its winter general meeting on Saturday.

According to Timmer, the way has been cleared by the change in ICC policy which means that Full membership is no longer linked to men’s Test status; playing Tests or multi-day internationals is now not required, and ‘not on the agenda’ as far as the KNCB is concerned.

But acceptable governance arrangements are demanded of candidates for Full membership, and to that end the Bond has appointed a Governance Committee under the chairmanship of former KNCB chairman and ICC Board member René van Ierschot, to review the organisation and management of cricket in the Netherlands.

One key aspect of its remit is the relationship between the KNCB and the limited company (BV) which it set up last year to manage major events.

Timmer’s double role as KNCB chair, an honorary position, and as events manager of the BV, for which she is paid, has been a source of concern for some since the company was first proposed, especially since her boss within the BV structure is the KNCB CEO, whom she in turn employs in her capacity as KNCB chair.

The issue of such double functions was again raised briefly in the course of Saturday’s meeting, and Timmer stated that her intention was that they should come to an end ‘as soon as possible’. She was not pressed further on the question.

The relationship between the Bond and its company arose elsewhere, however, as after some discussion club representatives agreed not only to transfer another €174k. ($US200k.), in addition to the €260k. transferred last July, into the BV’s coffers, but also to provide a guarantee of €200k. from the KNCB’s own reserves against possible losses by the BV.

The Board’s argument, backed up by the KNCB’s representatives on the BV’s Raad van Commissarissen (supervisory board), was that with next summer’s Super League programme now reduced to a comparatively unattractive three-match series against Ireland, it was almost certain that the company would be forced to operate at a loss in 2021.

The BV’s projections, according to Timmer, are that as much as €218k. could be lost on the Ireland series if the matches are played behind closed doors, reducing to €160k. if spectators are permitted, with ICC regulations for the Super League insisting that full TV coverage be provided for all games.

The TV rights for the Ireland series are, she stated, much less valuable than for matches against other Full members, and the postponement of the England and West Indies series means that there can be no compensation in the next financial year.

Earlier in the meeting Timmer had announced that the series against the West Indies, like that against England, had been postponed until 2022, leaving only the matches against Ireland next June as the sole survivors of the original programme for 2021.

The Dutch will now play Pakistan, England and the West Indies at home in a packed 2022 summer.

By contrast with the BV’s bleak short-term prospects, the KNCB itself has had a significant if unwelcome windfall: the cancellation of the international programme (with a consequent cut in payments to players) and the reduction in domestic competitions has meant an operating surplus of €344k. for 2020 and an increase in the reserves to €1.3million.

This will, however, be carried forward into 2021 against a projected increase in activity next year.

The meeting marked the final appearance of outgoing CEO Jaap Wals, who saw through the acceptance of the rolling Strategic Plan and the 2021 Annual Plan, part of the organisational legacy he leaves behind him.

He revealed that some progress has been made towards the objective of 6000 playing members by 2025, up from 4800 in 2018, despite the inevitable disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Continuing the drive towards this target will be one of the main tasks facing Wals’s successor, Milena van Not, who will take over management of the KNCB office on Monday.

The meeting also considered the local, Dutch version of the ICC’s Ethical Code, although the Board had to agree to reconsider the question of what would happen should the Board, to whom the new Ethics Officer will report, was itself the subject of a complaint under the Code.

This issue was given additional point by a somewhat fractious start to proceedings, when the Ajax Leiden club’s concern about the recent, unexplained termination of the contract of Marketing and Communications Manager Amber de Groot was briefly discussed.

It was clear that not everyone was satisfied by the Board’s insistence that it had acted within its powers in overturning the CEO’s recommendation that De Groot’s contract be extended or its refusal to discuss the matter any further.

There was a livelier discussion, and even a 21st century version of the Dutch Revolt, over the thorny issue of whether the country’s recreational cricketers should be allowed to continue playing in whites.

The Board’s proposal, implementing a decision made in 2018, is that as from next season all domestic cricket will be played in coloured clothing with a white ball.

But many Saturday-afternoon (Zami) and Sunday-afternoon (Zomi) recreational cricketers are unwilling to comply, and while the Board is willing to concede that the very smallest clubs might be allowed to use a pink or orange ball, several larger clubs, including VRA Amsterdam and Bloemendaal, made it clear that their Zami and Zomi teams would be playing in white whatever the Board might say.

While it might be thought that the same sort of passion could usefully be applied to more pressing issues facing Dutch cricket, the point was made that some Zami teams might be ready to leave the bosom of the KNCB altogether, and that insistence on the white ball and coloured clothing was scarcely the way to grow the game in the Netherlands.

The Board agreed to take the matter back for further consideration.

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