Monday, May 27, 2024

Ireland confirm postponement of men’s bilateral series vs Australia

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Cricket Ireland has confirmed that they cannot afford to host Australia this summer and that they have postponed what would have been the teams’ first-ever men’s bilateral series.

Australia were due to travel to Ireland in late August for three ODIs and a one-off T20I before moving onto England for a tour which comprises three T20Is and five ODIs. Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland’s performance director, told ESPNcricinfo last month that the series was in doubt and Warren Deutrom, their chief executive, has confirmed its indefinite postponement.

Deutrom told the Final Word podcast: “It was a difficult conversation, picking up the phone to Nick Hockley to say, ‘look Nick, we’ve looked at our schedule, we think we’re going to have to make some fairly difficult choices here about what stays and what goes, and we’ve concluded – difficult though it might be to believe – that we reckon this is the only way forward.'”

Ireland do not have a permanent home stadium and the costs of staging international cricket – which requires significant temporary infrastructure – are extremely high as a result. They have recently staged ‘home’ fixtures against South Africa and Bangladesh in England but there is already significant pressure on English pitches at the relevant stage of the season.

“The simple fact for us was that because we have so few pitches here in Ireland that can host international cricket, we had to make a fairly difficult decision,” Deutrom said. “It required us to have to open up Malahide Cricket Ground and if we were going to do that, we estimated it was going to be a very, very significant six-figure loss for us, to have to open up Malahide.

“The fact is, broadcast rights wise, Australia would probably be the fourth-largest of all the various [opponents] that we would have… it wouldn’t even have covered the cost of production, opening up Malahide and bearing in mind it’s an entirely green-field site. Those, unfortunately, are the difficult decisions we have to make.”

Deutrom said that the postponement “highlights the massive imperative to keep pushing government to build us a permanent stadium”, with plans in place to build a high-performance centre at the new Sport Ireland campus in Abbotstown, in the Dublin suburbs. “We have to pull a ticket and stand in line in terms of all the other investments the government has,” he said.

He also defended the decision by saying that Cricket Ireland is trying to “rebalance our spend” and increase investment in women’s and age-group teams. “We are no longer a board that exclusively weighs itself by the amount of men’s senior cricket that we host… we are going to try and obviously play Australia again into the future,” Deutrom said.

“But we are playing 46 international matches this year. We’re supporting 47 or 48 matches at provincial level with our men’s Inter-Pros, our women’s Super Series; we have an emerging competition; our Wolves [men’s A team] have been in Nepal; we’re going to be hosting West Indies Under-23 this year. That is an awful lot of representative cricket.”

Ireland will announce this week the outcomes of Friday’s board meeting, which will include details of their men’s international schedule for 2024. They will face Pakistan next month in three T20Is and are also due to host Zimbabwe (one Test, three ODIs, three T20Is) and South Africa (three ODIs, three T20Is) according to the Future Tours Programme – though both series are expected to be cut.

Dave Richardson, the former ICC chief executive, has been recommended for a role on the Cricket Ireland board and his appointment is due to be ratified at the upcoming AGM. “For me, wouldn’t it be great to be probably the only national governing body in Ireland that is going to have a recent former CEO of the world game of what is a major sport sitting on the board?” Deutrom said.

Cricket Ireland has come under pressure in recent weeks for the controversial purchase of two Tesla cars for senior officials – one for Deutrom, the other for chief financial officer Andrew May – at a time when their precarious financial position is prompting them to cancel tours by leading international teams. Deutrom defended the decision, but revealed that one of the cars has since been returned. “It’s been painful, because the perception is that it’s a snout in the trough,” he said.

“I suspect it’s the perception of the posh brand that has asked all the questions. At a human level, if I could go back and give the car back and get a slightly less posh model at a slightly accelerated price to save myself the hassle? Hell, yes. But from a company financial perspective, would I want the company to pay slightly more just to avoid the perception? No, I wouldn’t be doing my job.”

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