When Marc Asselbergs stepped down from his six-year term as KNCB chairman in 2012 he could scarcely have guessed that nearly a decade later he would be called upon to help resolve the Dutch governing body’s most serious internal crisis in its 139-year history.
On Thursday evening Asselbergs, who had been brought in by the present Board to preside over the special general meeting demanded by the clubs on 1 December and who has since been co-ordinating the mediation process initiated by that meeting, had to report to club representatives that the mediation had failed, and that the Board had decided to resign en masse as soon as a new one could be formed.
‘It was a courageous decision on their part,’ he told Emerging Cricket this weekend, ‘to accept that their differences could not be resolved, and that mutual trust had deteriorated to the point that they could no longer work together.’
At the root of the Board’s collapse was the controversial decision in October to dispense with the services of CEO Milena van Not, who had been in post for just ten months and who became the fourth CEO to be removed in less than seven years.
That decision, supported by a majority of the Board but openly criticised by chairman Jurgen Delfos, who had himself only taken up his post in April after the resignation of Betty Timmer to take on the newly-created job of CEO of Cricket Nederland BV, caused the split which has now proved impossible to overcome.
Asselbergs described Delfos on Saturday as ‘a good man who had lacked first-hand experience of the complex environment that is the KNCB’.
‘Every Board receives an inheritance from its predecessor,’ he observes.
In this case, with just two members joining the existing Board, that was especially true: Delfos was the first chair in the KNCB’s recent history who was not able to put together his own team, but instead was forced to work with that assembled by Ms. Timmer.
Insufficient time had been taken, in Asselbergs’ opinion, for the reconstituted Board to review where it was going and to reach shared goals, and as a result its members (and also the KNCB’s member clubs) had forgotten ‘how things were, how they ought to be and indeed how they must be’.
‘When there are such deep personal divisions,’ he says, ‘it’s extremely hard to even get to useful discussion of matters of policy.’
Thursday’s meeting, confronted with a Board which had agreed to go into caretaker mode pending the election of a new one, tasked Asselbergs with calling together a search committee to bring nominations to the next general meeting in April.
‘We need to find fresh faces,’ he says, ‘not in the spirit of a chess game where different players move pieces around the board, but people with the necessary competence and character to form a team which will stick to its role and trust the staff in the office, led by the CEO, to do their jobs and take the KNCB forward.’
‘I hope that we can also take the opportunity to give the KNCB such a structure that we will within a few years be able to state convincingly that we wish to become a Full member [of the ICC].’
Asselbergs believes that a line needs to be drawn under the unhappy events of the past few months, but he also recognises the need for a degree of continuity and does not automatically rule out, as some have demanded, a continuing role for one or more members of the outgoing Board, provided they are willing to adjust to a new reality.
In the meantime, he will remain as ‘an advisor or intermediary’, attending meetings of the caretaker Board and helping them to transact the business which, as interim CEO Richard de Winter reportedly reminded Thursday’s meeting, still needs to be done.
Asselbergs also stresses the need to reassure the KNCB’s principal stakeholders, ICC and the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF), not to mention its member clubs, that the governing body is in safe hands.
That is particularly important with three home Super League series scheduled for the coming summer as well as the World T20 Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe in July, but Asselbergs is confident that with Ms Timmer in charge of the BV and De Winter as CEO until a permanent appointment can be made, the KNCB will be able to steer a steady course.
It may, however, be his search committee which faces the more difficult task of bringing together a new Board which can transcend the heightened factionalism which currently afflicts Dutch cricket and focus on the real challenges which it continues to face.
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