Cricket Canada strategic plan – a report card

Give your own grade!
With the Cricket Canada AGM imminent, this seems an appropriate time to review the organization’s progress in implementing its strategic plan, adopted last year and covering the three years 2018, 19 and 20 (in the interests of full disclosure, I was part of the board that developed the plan in 2017-18, so bear some responsibility for it). The board is accountable to the members, and progress on this plan should be an important consideration at the AGM.
The review here is based on public information or perception alone, and many of the items proposed may or may not have been acted on- but if Cricket Canada has not publicly reported on them, in many cases any progress simply isn’t known.
The review takes the form of a report card, with grades ranging from A (objective achieved) down to F.
This is very much a personal view; others may know more about what’s going on at Cricket Canada, so we are giving you the opportunity to provide your own report- a simple Google form for you to fill in- this can be anonymous if you like but IP addresses are logged and multiple entries from a single IP will be deleted.. We’ll report the results here.

We’d be very happy to publish any response Cricket Canada has to this report card as well- there may be significant progress behind the scenes.
The strategic plan has six strategic objectives:-

  • To grow cricket in Canada – “Go Cricket“
  • Raise the profile of cricket through promotion and public engagement – “Go Canada!”
  • To develop and maintain the highest standards of governance and financial management – “Good Governance ”
  • To deliver competitive success through implementing and supporting the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model -“Developing Elite Players “
  • To achieve growth through a sustainable stream of resources – “Resource Planning”
  • To deliver competitive success – “ Winning Teams”

We will review each objective and provide a grade, before providing an overall grade.
We recognize that the plan itself is ambitious and aspirational, and CC should be commended for this. Many organizations adopt strategic plans that have low goals and targets, so they can be congratulated on achieving their objectives. The fact that CC may not have made great progress in some areas reflects that ambition, particularly in the face of very limited resources.

Objective: To grow cricket in Canada

Initiatives: a number of initiatives were proposed to achieve this objective, including developing infrastructure, developing coaches and officials, growing the game in schools, junior club programmes and youth leagues, and developing women’s cricket.
Cricket Canada committed to

  • Develop city based youth program
  • Strengthen/expand school program
  • Community/ recreational coach recruitment and development
  • Officials recruitment and development
  • Funding infrastructure development

There’s no evidence of any work on a city based youth programme, and schools and coach development has fallen back rather than advanced as Cricket Canada’s development officer left to work with ICC Americas, and no replacement has been even advertised. The schools programme developed in the Toronto area has not turned into a national programme, and an NCCP level one coaching module has yet to be released.
There is also no evidence of any efforts to recruit officials- the officials area on the Cricket Canada web site has virtually no information, and a review of it does not even indicate who is responsible for officiating in Canada.
There has been some progress in funding infrastructure development- Cricket Canada put in place a development funding policy that does provide for some funding of infrastructure, particularly turf pitches, indoor practice facilities and artificial pitches in places where no facilities exist. It is not clear how much money is allocated to this however, and there have been no open call for proposals.
The holding of a women’s national championship in 2018 was a positive, but only three provinces were represented at it, indicating that women’s cricket in Canada has a long way to go. The figures presented in the strategic plan suggest there were only 60 women playing senior cricket in Canada in 2016. One hopes that there are more now, but the exclusion of those affiliated with the Alberta Cricket Council from 2018 numbers means perhaps not.
The main metric proposed to evaluate progress towards this objective is the number of players in Canada. This has in effect declined over the last two years if the definition of player is one affiliated to Cricket Canada. The administrative divisions within Alberta and Saskatchewan means that leagues/ clubs previously part of Cricket Canada are now operating independently. This decline would likely overwhelm any incremental growth (or decline) in numbers.
Overall grade: E (only the infrastructure work saves this from an F)

Objective: Raise the profile of cricket through promotion and public engagement

The major initiatives here were to improve promotion and fan engagement, marketing, development of online resources and managing relationships with government and media.
The actions outlined include improving the website, developing streaming production, increasing social media presence, improving PR and media, government, member and sponsor relationships and developing a marketing strategy, with metrics including number of streaming events, media score and spectator attendance at Cricket Canada events.
A lot of effort has gone into the web site. At the beginning of 2018, Cricket Canada had a basic WordPress site (set up by myself) at gocricketgocanada.com. It was regularly updated with news item but had few bells and whistles. In June 2018 a new web site was launched, with many added features. It featured a scoreboard, a member’s login area (“fan zone”), an online shop, and “Cricket Canada TV”. None of these were functional (apart from the occasional youtube video posted under TV) and remained so over the next 11 months, at which point the site was replaced with a new site in May 2019. This appears to have the same features planned, but most are still not functioning (coming soon…) . The visual appearance and added features are all very well but the real test of a web site is content – it needs to be the main vehicle of communication for the organization. The web site has not really passed the test in this regard. It is not up to date, with for example the listing of the men’s national team based on a 2017 tournament (before it was removed completely), and with only occasional news updates. A visitor to the current web site would have no idea that Canada has just played in a major tournament – WCL Division 2 – with the most recent article dealing with the senior team dated 22nd March. The web site also has had server challenges with outage periods. The concept of the new web sites are not in themselves bad but the execution means that the objective of “improving the web site” has not been reached- in fact it could be argued that the site has regressed.
The one positive note is the “Wickets” publication hosted on the web site, which does contain some good features on Canadian cricket (along with a strong emphasis on West Indies cricket and articles with no relation to cricket that presumably pay the bills). This is a third party production but definitely enhances Cricket Canada’s online presence.
Taking the Global T20 aside (which was an independent effort, albeit with much support from Cricket Canada), there was one positive in terms of enhanced streaming of games- CricketFest 2019 had decent streaming coverage. This was streamed live in conjunction with CBC sports, with good production values. Other domestic events (National and Regional T20) were not streamed by Cricket Canada, although the QCF did have good streaming coverage of the Eastern T20 via cricclubs.
In terms in increasing the social media of the organization, this has been a decent effort. The number of tweets on the Cricket Canada account increased markedly in 2018, with a high proportion devoted to the global T20. This has not resulted in a well-followed account however, with Cricket Canada’s 23,000 followers notably better than the USA (14k) but lagging behind PNG (38k), Hong Kong (56k), Netherlands (71k), UAE (83k), and Scotland (123k) for example. The last tweet on the account is again prior to WCL Division 2. Facebook is well used by the organization, often preferred to the web site for announcements and news, and the number of posts appear to have increased in that period. An instagram account was also established, with 3,300 followers.
It is not clear what engagement there has been with the media. There was extensive coverage of the Global T20, but outside of that, the typical dearth of coverage of Canadian cricket in the media continues – there has certainly been no increase.
The recent appearances of the President on Facebook live are a new direction and this may be a positive move in fan engagement, although they received a mixed reaction based on comments.
Ultimately the real test is are more Canadians aware of and watching Canadian cricket? This is hard to estimate – the Global T20 made a difference but there has been little penetration of the mainstream market. The web site rates an F but given other efforts, mostly associated with the Global T20, Cricket Canada earns a C here.

Objective: To develop and maintain the highest standards of governance and financial management

This objective covered the following initiatives: transparency and accountability; monitoring of the progress of strategic planning, modern policies that surpass expected standards; reporting and audit standards that ensure compliance; risk management based approach to governance; and financial management of the highest standards.
The plan committed them to a series of actions including developing organizational structure, an annual review of By-laws, Constitution, job descriptions and policies; monitoring Strategic Plan implementation; developing and implementing an internal audit process; improving the committee structure; developing provincial member governance criteria, developing budget creation, approval and monitoring process, implementing accounting software, implementing project budgeting and effectiveness monitoring.
In terms of assessing performance, most of these actions are internal and hard to evaluate without Cricket Canada formally reporting on them. The lack of any information on these initiatives could be construed as a failure of the higher level objective of increased transparency and accountability. Based on publically available Cricket Canada information, we have no idea what committees are formed, or who sits on them. The CC website states “Organisational Structure is currently under Review due to new STRATEGIC PLAN and will be updated soon” so it seems clear little progress has taken place here.
Cricket Canada spent 2017-18 organizing and approving a number of policies and putting them on-line in both official languages. Thus much of the work to ensure they comply with Sport Canada’s requirements was already done at the start of this planning cycle. There have been no updates or revisions to these policies since the Strategic Plan was adopted (and this would be unlikely as most of these policies are new, and would only require revision if they clearly were not working well).
The challenge in the 2018-20 planning period thus was to actually comply with those policies. This is probably the best available metric to test performance under this objective. The policy documents commit Cricket Canada to a series of actions, and ways of conducting business. Some of these actions require public notification and thus can be evaluated. They include:-
Coach and manager appointments: “Establishing an appointment committee for coach/ manager appointments with all such positions publically advertised “. This was not done for any coach of manager appointments for U19, senior mens or womens teams in the last year.
Selection: “Appointing and announcing the Selection Committee annually (generally by October of the current year, to allow the committee to meet and prepare a plan for the upcoming season)”. There has been no announcement of who constitutes the selection committee, and the committee is not listed anywhere that we know of.
The selection policy references a high performance manager and their role- no such position appears to exist.
The Athlete Centredness policy specifies that an athletes’ committee should be in place – no evidence of such a committee has been found
“Actively seeks international events for both men’s and women’s teams”. There has been significant efforts for the men’s team but nothing for the women’s team – apart from the upcoming ICC event.
“Promotes cricket by portraying it in gender neutral fashion; Provides equal opportunity to both genders in all activities”
There has been some effort to raise the profile of women’s cricket but it seems that there needs to be more progress in these policy areas. The website has one image of a female cricketer on the home page, and a decent women’s national team page (which really deals with Canadian women’s cricket generally). The women’s national championship, and the selection of a national team is certainly a step forward, and it would be fair to say the opportunities are there for women, even if a significant number are playing outside of Cricket Canada affiliated leagues. The absence of any international playing opportunities outside of ICC events does mean the women’s national team operates at a significant disadvantage to the men’s.
“All official communications available in French and English”. The web site is bilingual, and by and large this is abided by, although it falls behind the standards of the major Canadian sports – given the very few Francophone cricketers in Canada, Cricket Canada has likely done more than enough here.
“Cricket Canada shall communicate to members and HP/Development players the criteria for funding applications for the next fiscal year before the Dec 31st of the preceding year”. This was not done as far as we know.
Thus although policies are in place it does seem clear that a significant proportion of them that can be reviewed based on publicly available information are not being followed. One hopes that the performance of compliance to internal policies is better.
Thus the grade awarded here, based on the lack of transparency and obvious accountability, and poor performance on those policies that can be evaluated is an E.

Objective: To deliver competitive success through implementing and supporting the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model

The initiatives contemplated here are talent identification, development and retention, development of HP infrastructure, organising high level competition; development of high level coaches and officials; developing accredited Academy system
The actions proposed include improving elite player fitness; developing national and regional high performance centers, developing elite player monitoring database, developing capacity for pre-match analysis and preparation, developing talent scouting program, starting new elite league/ competition in Canada, accreditation programme for private academies, develop elite/ high level coaches, develop high level officials; and developing a player retention strategy.
The LTAD document is well worth reading. A summary is available on the CC web site, although the link to the full PDF document appears to be broken.
https://cricketcanada.org/long-term-athlete-development-ltad
This document was completed in 2014 by a committee led by current Cricket Canada general manager (and occasional national coach) Ingleton Liburd. It is an excellent, professionally put together, document, and provides a comprehensive development road-map for cricket in Canada. It has been largely ignored, or not implemented, probably mainly due to a lack of resources.
There appears to have been little demonstrable progress since the adoption of the strategic plan; there do not appear to be any regional HP centres in existence, and no announcements regarding a national centre have been made. No new elite level competition has appeared in Canada, and there is no inter-provincial 50 overs competition in existence. There may be efforts to develop an elite player monitoring database but nothing has appeared to date, although in January 2019, Cricket Canada issued a media release talking about the future launch of a “sports management portal” – “a central portal capturing the relevant player details, statistics and scores for all Cricket matches, being played at National and Provincial levels”.
Given the apparent lack of progress on LTAD actions, many of which require an active development officer, the grade proposed here is a D – assuming there is significant activity behind the scenes.

Robust Resources

This had the following areas of focus: developing sustainable funding model; diversification of funding sources and maximising existing funding opportunities.
Initiatives included: standardizing ICC, Sport Canada and other grant funding qualification; developing infrastructure to support commercial events; developing sponsorship revenue generation program, sponsor management program, developing yearly commercial event program; increasing online revenues.
The big success here is revenue from the Global T20. The 2016 CC financial statements are the last ones on-line and they show total revenue of US$1.24 million of which 927,000 comes directly from the ICC, with $200,000 in other grants. Only $7,500 in sponsorship, and $52,000 in provincial dues comes directly from Cricket Canada.
Ranjit Saini in one of his Facebook live interviews stated that the Global T20 had resulted in an additional $500,000 in revenue, a massive increase in internally generated funds. The size of this contribution means that the apparently failure in other tasks is less important, but it appears that there is minimal revenue raised from on-line activity, and no apparent sponsors, at least based on team clothing, and the web site.
Overall grade- it is tempting to give an A but robust resources means diversity and all aspects need to be developed, not just the Global T20 revenue, so our grade is a B

Winning Teams

This objective strives to improve performance of representative teams through using state of the art training techniques to develop and improve physical fitness, cricket skills, mental fitness, team/ match preparation and monitoring performance.
This is perhaps the most public of the objectives and the easiest to evaluate. The stated metric of success was ODI status by 2020. This will not occur as the senior men’s team failed at WCL Division 2, after coming in as favourites. Given the public statements that the Canadian squad was the best in the tournament, and the large amount of money ($640,000) spent on the team, this comes down to deficiencies in the coaching and management. To be on paper the best team and not perform comes down to poor mental preparation, and poor team and match preparation. This in turn reflects on the administration who are ultimately responsible for deciding who is hired to deal with these aspects.
ICC men’s one day cricket is only one of the tournaments to which Canada enters teams. The Under 19 squad had a good 2018 World Cup, finishing highest of the associates (although the work developing this team fell before the strategic plan time period). The women’s team has not really played in the planning period so far, and the Senior Mens team cruised through the first stage of the Americas T20 qualifiers. None the less, the internationally recognized measure of success is that based on the 50 over game- success in that format was the foundation of Ireland and Afghanistan’s promotion to full member status and Canada has failed to progress.
The grade here has to be an F.

Overall grade

As stated previously, this was an ambitious plan. However, once an organization is committed to a plan, they have to be evaluated on their performance delivering it. Strategic plans are created for many reasons- the worst of which is that an organization requires a strategic plan more for political reasons than any real commitment to it. Such plans look good, but ultimately are impractical, as they are not grounded in the reality of operationalizing them.
The operational part of this strategic plan references teams containing staff members who do not exist- a development officer and HP manager, as well as national team staff who were only hired just prior to the WCL qualifier. Without full time staff available, Cricket Canada is dependent on volunteers to put the plan into practice. The board itself is small and should be providing strategic direction and guidance rather than hands-on work, but recruitment of volunteers outside of the board may not have been as effective as required. This plan seems to be more of a wish list than an over-riding plan to guide the organization.
There have been successes- notably the Global T20 with attendant publicity, and revenue. The failures though outweigh this. The key metrics outlined in the strategic plan are

  • player numbers (likely fallen due to governance issues and division within the provinces)
  • Sponsorship revenue – outside of the global T20, no progress on sponsors seems to have taken place (the $500,000 from the Global T20 could be portrayed as this, however)
  • Proportion of ICC revenue- definitely a success with GT20 funding
  • Winning teams- unfortunately a failure based on WCL Division 2.

With only one out of four metrics clearing showing progress, then the overall grade has to be a D or an E – needs to significantly improve in the next two years if the plan is to be considered successful.

This unfortunately is not unusual for Cricket Canada. Strategic plans were put in place for 2012-15, and 2015-18. They were similar in scope and ambition, with almost identical strategic objectives, and highlighted many similar actions, none of which materialized, likely for very similar reasons- mostly lack of resources.

DL

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