MONEY MATTERS

Every week my wife and I try and teach each other a few new words and phrases in our respective languages. Iím ashamed to say that in our 11 years together her English is much more comprehensive than my Thai. Especially the swear words when we have the occasional disagreement! Although I reassure myself by saying I have the essential vocabulary covered as I can order the food and drink I like. What else do you really need?

This week Iíve been teaching her the word and concept of budgets; I donít think the word exists in Thailand, nor the word change. Well at least to her anyway.

She is a Buddhist who lives life happily and care free. If she has money she spends it. If she doesnít, she asks me for more. Itís worked in our time together, she more or less gets what she wants, why should she change her modus operandi?

This time last year I explained to her the likely economic implications from the covid-19 pandemic for the small hotel we part-own and how things were likely to get much tighter. She nodded her understanding, assured me that Buddha would look after us, everything would be alright, and continued to do her best to keep the economy of Thailand afloat by buying everything that didnít move.

This week Cricket Ireland announced itís a healthy Ä1.5 million in the black and going to emulate Viv Nicholson (and Ramphai Chambers) by spending, spending, spending!

They admit they are okay for this year and probably next too. Then the really big money will kick in from ICC when they will have more money than they know what to do with. Iíve mentioned before about my Scottish ancestry and how I always like to have a bit squirrelled away for a rainy day. While a lot of our competitors went to the wall this past year, we had reserves that, touch wood, have enabled us to survive the worst year in hospitality history; not so much a rainy day, but a full blown hurricane.

Cricket Ireland seem to be really taking the handbrake off. The government grants and support, ICC funding and not playing cricket have seen the coffers swell to unprecedented levels. The Euroslam has a better than evens chance of bringing in another few million, and of course the aforementioned financial bonanza from ICC is only a few years away. What though if things go awry? Covid hasnít gone away you know.

The economy is incredibly fragile, especially the cricket one. The ECB have ploughed an incredible amount of resources into their Hundred competition, while India, due to host the T20 World Cup in October, has one of the worst death and infection rates for the disease. Itís not beyond the realms of possibility that things could go very wrong very quickly.

If that happens, do you think India and England will say, ďItís ok little countries. You can keep your share of the cake, we will accept much less. You need it more than us?Ē

Previous history shows us the danger of this.

KIDS PLAY

I spent last Christmas in Ireland, going for a post dinner walk through the village, around the surrounding districts which take in three substantial housing developments. Quite a few were out walking on an unusually temperate and bright sunny day. Lots of conversations with old friends, neighbours and former school acquaintances catching up on events.

What was striking though was the silence.

Iíd noticed it was a growing trend of the past 10-15 years. Normally driving through Ardmore it was like a version of the Olympics or Itís a Knock-out. Loads of kids on bikes, skates, footballs, and indeed the odd cricket bat or tennis racquet as their new presents were tested.

Thatís changed. Kids now are very much glued to their gadgets with the tip of their nose never more than an inch away from their phone or ipad.

This week CI launched two of three schemes that they are pumping significant resources into. Around Ä500 000 has been earmarked in an attempt to get more children, especially girls to play the game. Itís not going to be easy as they attempt to roll out a national programme. For that they will need the support of the unions and clubs. It would be fair to say some are more enthusiastic about the schemes than others.

Iím not sure what the governing body would quantify as a successful roll-out of the programme. I would have preferred if they let the clubs keep any income derived rather than collecting registration fees. Some families are getting it tight and it would have been a nice gesture for the clubs and kids not to be charged.

Will it result in thousands of new kids coming into the game? Realistically not. Itís going to be a difficult sell, especially with the high profile success of the Womenís hockey, rugby and NI football team.

In terms of a legacy project Iíd have channeled funds to the clubs with a bonus scheme for actual teams. If a club has or sets up an U9/11/13 boys or girl team then they get x pounds/euros. Looking at the detailed spreadsheets where the money goes on these schemes, far too much seems to be spent on administration and indeed administrators.

Iíd much prefer it to go the clubs, the importance of whom seems to be finally dawning on Cricket Ireland.

MAN WITH A PLAN

You just slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

You don't need to be coy, Roy

Just get yourself free.

As a child we used to have one of those old record players housed in a wooden cabinet where there rested a selection of lps and singles. My father forbid me from touching the said records with my grubby little paws stained with jam, sweets or whatever.

We didnít have a vast collection but one I remember very well was ĎBridge Over Troubled Waterí by Simon and Garfunkel. I knew every word of every song on that album. Paul Simon later recorded a song called Ď50 ways to leave your loverí of which a few lines are reproduced above.

I mention this as last week Cricket Ireland launched the latest version of their Strategic Plan which covers 2021 to 2023. Now I donít pay much attention to these documents which are usually compiled by a combination of staff and consultants to show Sport Ireland and the NI Sports Council what they are all about.

It contains grand sounding statements that nobody really cares about but have a good ring to them. This one is mercifully shorter than most and has the added advantage of having the new Chairman elect Brian MacNeice as part-author as his company Kotinos Partners were the consultants hired. He will know where they are looking to go to.

I had a look back at a few of the previous plans. The last one was probably unique in that something they said they were going to do happened! Test status was achieved well in advance of their aim, a remarkable feat. Thatís why itís sad that they have put it on the back burner for two years and counting.

Warren Deutrom looked happy last week, the old confidence looked restored as he spoke with Rob Hartnett. I suppose I would look happy too if my company had Ä1.5 million in the bank! He was positive, upbeat and confident, a throwback to 2007 to 2015, free from the worries and setbacks of the last few years.

In recent times Iíve wondered about his judgement. I shook the head when he told the media about Irelandís Tests Ďlacking contextí and sounding like an English version of Bob Geldof moaning about the money it costs to play Tests. He should know how much it means to the guys to play Tests. That is the pinnacle. I can tell you nearly every detail of the Tests over the years. I struggle to remember anything about a T20, while 50-overs games apart from the really famous ones are a bit of a blur.

The main aim of the previous Plan was ďMaking Cricket MainstreamĒ while this one is ďCreating a Cricket IslandĒ. Is cricket more mainstream now than it was in 2015? I donít think you would meet anybody who reckons it is. Did we meet our goals of being 8th in the world in the menís game? Will we have more of a cricket island three years down the line? Will we qualify for all the World Cups? Will it really matter?

INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY

There are some noble aims in the Plan and indeed in the participation schemes around the areas of inclusion and diversity. As they say up here though ďTalk is cheap. It takes money to buy a drink.Ē

Look at the staff and board compositions of Cricket Ireland in particular and to a lesser extent the Unions. CI have approximately 33 staff, 22 men and 11 women, none of which can be said to come from an Asian/black/minority community.

The Board has 10 men and 2 women, all of whom are white and Iím taking an educated guess that the average age is around the 50 mark.

Have they wondered why so few players from these communities make it to Ireland and interprovincial level? Have they learned the lessons of the recent case that made the pages of the Indian newspapers? Do they want to really know how things can be improved and more representation and participation achieved from the under-represented communities?

What would I do? When I wondered why the guests at the hotel didnít really like the music in the bar and small restaurant I asked them and the staff. Turns out that a 50 year-old white Irishman likes different things (Oasis, Neil Diamond, Glenn Campbell, The Undertones) than 20-30 year-old Asians..Go figure.

Iíd seek the wise counsel of Kamal Merchant, Bobby Rao, Ehtesham Ahmed, Sadat Gul, Naz Shaukat, Simi Singh, amongst others Ė especially their female equivalents who to my eternal shame I canít name any. Isnít that a damning indictment of just how few role models there are at elite level?

Time for real change.

ABBOTSTOWN

There was some truly shocking footage doing the rounds last week of the 'grass pitches' at the High Performance Centre at Abbotstown.

Iím told the matter is possibly sub judice so wonít be commenting further other than to say I hope gets sorted soon.