Former KNCB vice-chairman Lubbers steps into the fray

Steven Lubbers Netherlands

As the KNCB’s governance crisis continues to deepen, former vice-chairman (and former national captain) Steven Lubbers has stepped into the fray, launching an extraordinary attack on current chairman Jurgen Delfos in an interview with local Deventer newspaper De Stentor.

Dutch cricket is, according to Lubbers, threatening to collapse, with a coup being planned by the clubs from Den Haag to overthrow a Board which, in his view, has, apart from its new chairman, been functioning well.

Lubbers’ version presents the conflict as being between a group of clubs who wish to undermine the KNCB’s high performance strategy, vital to the Bond’s financial welfare, and those who have been successfully pursuing a balanced policy between high performance and the recreational game.

Citing the poor preparation for the recent T20 World Cup, which led to the Netherlands’ rapid ejection from the tournament, Lubbers blames ‘the ambition-less style of chairman Delfos’, rather than the man actually responsible for high performance until his recent resignation from the Board, vice-chairman Hans Mulder.

Nor does he draw attention to the fact that the budget for the current year, with its allocations for the national side and for the rest of high performance, was drawn up on the watch of Mulder and of Delfos’ predecessor as chair, Betty Timmer; Delfos himself was only elected to the chair in April.

Equally, the paper makes no reference to the fact that Lubbers was Ms. Timmer’s vice-chairman from 2015 to 2017, or that the origins of the current crisis lie not in high performance policy but in the Board’s decision to dispense with the services of CEO Milena van Not after she had been in the post for just ten months.

According to KNCB secretary Robert Vermeulen, the grounds for that decision were that ‘insufficient progress’ had been made in the priority areas of growing the game, sponsorship and marketing, and ‘optimalisation’ of the KNCB’s internal organisation.

It seems extraordinary to many that the Board found progress over the past ten months inadequate when cricket in the Netherlands has been in serious decline for more than 35 years, when successive Boards and CEOs have been unable to find major sponsors since ABN-AMRO pulled out in 2014, and when all sport has been severely disrupted by a global pandemic.

As Emerging Cricket reported on Monday, the clubs which called for the 1 December special general meeting, have identified no fewer than nine grounds for concern about the recent conduct of the present Board, not one of which can be legitimately presented as seeking to undermine the high performance area in favour of club cricket, in Den Haag or anywhere else.

They did, on the contrary, name the poor preparation of the national side for the T20 World Cup as one of those areas where the Board had fallen short.

Several others relate to what the clubs see as the Board’s arbitrary dismissals of Ms. van Not and her predecessor Jaap Wals, and of media manager Amber de Groot, much of whose role was concerned with publicising the performances of the Dutch national sides.

There is also a good deal of concern about the establishment of the KNCB’s wholly-owned subsidiary Cricket Nederland BV, and about the Board’s appointment, without a formal selection process, of its first CEO, the same Ms. Timmer who until April combined the roles of KNCB chair and paid events manager of the BV.

None of this features in Lubbers’ attack on Mr. Delfos or the ‘stokers of unrest’, the clubs who have ventured to challenge a Board which, under Ms. Timmer’s leadership, appeared intent on setting up a rival structure, with its own CEO, to evade scrutiny by the member-clubs through the general meeting.

A working party on governance set up by Ms. Timmer and chaired by former KNCB chairman René van Ierschot had even recommended that all high performance matters, with the very substantial ICC funding they generate, be taken out of the hands of the KNCB and vested in the BV.

And when this was challenged by the clubs at the April general meeting, it was clear that while it was being withdrawn for the time being it remained on the table for future consideration.

As further evidence that those who were instrumental in the termination of Ms. van Not’s contract were not intending to go quietly, Board member Barbera Boissevain e-mailed all clubs on Sunday, regretting the ‘polarisation’ afflicting the KNCB and claiming that the Board’s actions had been taken as ‘protector of the interests of the general meeting’.

She, too, made no mention of the decision regarding Ms. van Not, but complained about the breaking of collective responsibility for unspecified Board resolutions, and suggested that the crisis had now reached the point where it might be desirable to appoint ‘an independent advisory committee (with a mountain of both national and international cricket experience), which could protect or take over the tasks of the Board’.

It increasingly appears that Dutch cricket is locked in a fight to the death between two irreconcilable positions, one of which wishes to keep ultimate responsibility for the game in the hands of the member clubs, as provided for in the KNCB constitution, and another which does not.

The author served on the Board of the KNCB between 2012 and 2016, and as Vice-chairman from December 2012 to June 2015.

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