KNCB opts for collegiality and a new start

The pitch for Wednesday evening’s general meeting of the KNCB, the Dutch governing body, which had threatened to be a lively one, turned out to be a good deal more placid than many had feared.

The decisive overs were bowled in the first half-hour of play, and came in the form of a spell of perfect line and length from Quick Haag’s Guido Landheer, speaking on behalf of the group of 20 club chairmen who over the past couple of weeks have challenged the Board over its governance proposals regarding the relationship of the KNCB with Cricket Nederland BV, the limited liability company set up to run the Netherlands’ major home events such as the Super League.

Landheer, arguing that what he and the other chairmen wanted was an amicable meeting, observed that there were ‘legitimate questions’ about the proposals, and suggested a three-point agreement: that the item about Governance be dropped from the meeting’s agenda; that incoming Bond chairman Jurgen Delfos be given a period of one or two months to review and re-present proposals; and that in the meantime no decisions be taken or acted upon, KNCB CEO Milena van Not remaining CEO of the BV as well and outgoing chair Betty Timmer remaining Events Organiser within the BV.

He did deliver a couple of bouncers with the air of a man who has done the numbers and reckons they’re on his side: if his motion came to a vote and was carried, could the meeting have a guarantee that the Board would do as it asked?

This procedural move presented the Board with the dilemma of whether to counter-attack or play with a dead bat; secretary Robert Vermeulen seemed to favour the latter, while vice-chairman Hans Mulder was more aggressive, pointing out that the Board’s proposals had been circulated on 22 February and that clubs had therefore had plenty of time to reach a decision.

With other chairmen pleading for a deferment which would avoid an outright confrontation – since the problem was that they had reached a decision and it wasn’t in the Board’s favour – the turning-point came with interventions from René van Ierschot and Steven van Hoogstraten, both former KNCB chairmen and respectively a key member of the working party on Governance, which had made the initial recommendations, and chairman of the BV’s Supervisory Council.

Van Ierschot argued that his committee’s report had not been properly understood and that a delay would allow more time for the recommendations to be explained and discussed, while Van Hoogstraten, although he was concerned about the effects of a two-month delay on the BV’s operations with the Super League series against Ireland less than two months away, also recognised that there were benefits in preventing the evening from turning sour.

These speeches from two of the Bond’s elder statesmen had a salutary effect, and Ms. Timmer adjourned the meeting to allow her Board to consider its position.
When play resumed, secretary Vermeulen announced that the Board was prepared, in the light of the feeling of the meeting, to drop the Governance issue from the agenda and to defer the appointment of a CEO to the BV.

But time was pressing in the light of the forthcoming Ireland series, and a delay of one or two months would be too long; he therefore proposed a discussion in the near future between the new Board under Delfos and Landheer’s chairmen’s group.
Landheer accepted this, and the way was clear for the meeting to continue.
There were, however, subsequent indications that deferment has not settled all the issues, and it is not absolutely clear that a special general meeting will be called to resolve them.

In a combative explanation under Announcements, vice-chairman Mulder made clear that the recommendation to bring the entire High Performance area under the control of the BV remained on the table until the end of 2022, and that the future of the Supervisory Council would be reviewed in September 2022.

He went on to make a spirited defence of the proposal for two separate CEOs, suggesting that the experience of the past eighteen months had indicated that uniting the two roles in one person did not work and claiming, without offering any evidence, that many governing bodies had multiple CEOs.

The proposal was, he stated, ‘purely operational’, allowing the CEO of the BV to report directly to the Supervisory Council rather than an Events Organiser reporting through the CEO.

The murkiness of the relationship between the KNCB and the BV resurfaced, too, during the discussion of the finances, where the Financial Committee’s observation that it had no insight into the BV’s finances led Van Hoogstraten to remark that that was, indeed, not part of the Committee’s role.

This discussion also produced the revelation that the BV’s sole shareholder is not the KNCB as such but its Board, which may have come as a surprise to some and which may play into further debates about the future relationship between the two bodies.
All this apart, the change in chairmanship from Timmer to Delfos did bring with it a sense of a new start.

Vice-chairman Mulder heaped fulsome praise on the outgoing chair, very properly noting the achievements of her five and a half years in the role but stingingly adding that ‘the appreciation of her internationally is greater than in the Netherlands’ – glossing over the fact that she has twice been defeated recently in elections to the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee.

Ms. Timmer then added her own remarks, reaffirming her commitment to the future of Dutch cricket and declaring her optimism about what may be ‘the most crucial period in the Bond’s history.’

The fact that a new innings had begun was underlined by a presentation by Frits de Jongh of Ajax Leiden, another of the key dissidents of the past two weeks, who noted the achievements of Ms. Timmer’s Board in developing a clear strategy and offered, on behalf of 31 clubs, full support to the new one in realising that strategy, giving full expression to the diversity in Dutch cricket, and ensuring good governance.

Such great events could easily overshadow some other significant moments in the meeting, but they deserve some attention in their own right.

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