KNCB turns to external mediator to resolve governance crisis

Netherlands KNCB

In an attempt to resolve the governance impasse which the KNCB appears to have reached, its special general meeting, held online because of pandemic restrictions, agreed on Wednesday evening to approach an external mediator to try to find a way forward.

Called by a group of ten clubs in reaction to the Board’s decision not to extend the contract of CEO Milena van Not, the meeting addressed the tensions within the Board and between the Board and some clubs, and their likely impact on the future of Dutch cricket.

It was a meeting in which what was not said was as significant as the speeches actually made: there was little discussion of the list of grievances which the so-called Restore Trust Group had identified, and few references to the decision to terminate Ms. van Not’s contract.

While it is understandable that all those present wished to avoid a public airing of difficult personnel issues, the result was that much of the discussion remained abstract.

There was, in the words of KNCB chair Jurgen Delfos, who handed the metaphorical gavel to former chairman Marc Asselbergs at the start of the meeting, universal agreement that the goal should be an improved future for Dutch cricket, but there were profound differences about the route to be taken.

And indeed, it was quite clear that there are sharp divisions, not only within the current Board, but also among the KNCB’s member clubs: the leaders of the Restore Trust Group were accused by some of opportunism and negativity, charges which they of course denied, and for much of the two-hour meeting it was hard to see how a positive way forward might be found,

Speaking for the signatories of the special meeting requisition, HBS chairman Ewout Boendermaker expressed his regret that the Restore Trust Group had not been able to maintain a fruitful relationship with the Board during the months before Delfos’s taking of the chair in April, and noted the chaos which had resulted from the termination of Ms. van Not’s contract, without consultation with the clubs and without a viable Plan B.

Wim Pielage (ACC) and Reinout van Ierschot (VOC Rotterdam) quickly dissociated themselves from Boendermaker’s remarks, indicating their support for the majority on the Board who had supported Ms. van Not’s departure.

Defending his own position as an opponent of that decision and meeting the suggestion that if one dissents from a resolution a Board member should either accept the majority opinion or resign, Delfos argued that the effective dismissal of a CEO was the most important decision a Board could take, and that he did not take the view that he should just accept it.

It soon became clear that there was widespread recognition of the seriousness of the situation, and that, as Jan Nuijten (HCC) put it, just ‘muddling through’ was not an option.

The crisis was all the more worrying because, as Peter van Gulik (VRA Amsterdam) put it, the KNCB was entering ‘the most important year in the history of Dutch cricket’, with a series of home ODIs in the soon-to-be-abolished Super League a last opportunity for the present to project the Dutch game on local television; decisions needed to be taken urgently, and the currently ‘rudderless’ position of the KNCB was unsustainable.

This was further underlined by former chairman and current chair of the Raad van Commissarissen [Supervisory Board] of Cricket Nederland BV, who noted that the BV needed a further injection of funds from the KNCB to be agreed at the regular general meeting on 14 December.

Gradually, the meeting was working its way towards an agreement that a mediator would need to be brought in to resolve the issues, with the choice lying between a ‘Committee of Wise Men’ drawn from within the Dutch cricket community, and an external agency.

Here, too, there was a difference of view between the supporters of the Board majority and its critics, the latter observing that no-one within Dutch cricket could be wholly objective, although Asselbergs stressed that whichever option was preferred would need to be unanimously accepted by all the current Board members.

When Delfos threw his weight behind an external mediator there was no dissent, and that was agreed as the way forward; he would, he said, make an immediate approach to NOC*NSF, the Dutch Olympic Committee, to find a suitable agency.

VRA chair Dorien Rauwerda-Kolen Kerklaan suggested that in order to avoid any further procedural disputes Asselbergs should join Delfos in his quest for a mediator, and this too was agreed.

It had been a difficult two hours, and there was a palpable sense of relief that a way forward had been found. The mediator, who will be asked to move quickly, may not find resolving the many disparate views a straightforward task.

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