Recently Eddie Norfolk provided a partial guide to the structure of cricket administration in Canada, focusing on how the provincial members (voting members) are chosen. There also were Facebook posts in December discussing activities of current Cricket Canada Board members in regard to the board elections at Cricket BC, and some might wonder as to why the elections in a province might be of interest to any individual on the board. It therefore is perhaps appropriate to outline how votes are cast by the members at Cricket Canada general meetings.
The key to understanding this lies in the CC constitution (https://cricketcanada.org/policies/english/2018-april-by-laws.pdf). The board is actually elected by very few people. The “members” of Cricket Canada consist of the provincial representatives – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, PEI, NS, NB and NS. The by-laws state that a provincial member is defined as follows:-
“Any provincial cricket association that demonstrates effective control of organized competitive cricket within the province concerned will be considered a Member with voting privileges at any Meeting of the members.”
Not all members are equal in terms of votes. The number of votes carried by a member is based on the number of “member teams” in that organization.
A member team is defined as:-
“Member Team – a cricket team composed of at least 13 registered players who have played a minimum of 8 games in the T-20 and longer formats;”
The lack of any centralised registration system in many provinces means that it is hard to audit claims of the number of teams. The definition is also unclear- does a club with entries in a T20, and 40 over league count as two teams or one? What is a “registered player”?
The bylaws indicate votes are allocated as follows:-
• 1 vote – up to 25 teams
• 2 votes – 26-50 teams
• 3 votes – 51-75 teams
• 4 votes – more than 75 teams.
For the past two AGMs the votes have been allocated as follows:-
• 4 votes: BC, Alberta, Ontario
• 1 vote: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, NS, NB, PEI and NL
Total votes = 19; 10 votes constitute a majority. In the recent past, Quebec and Saskatchewan have held two votes.
This means that if the three “big” provinces agree on an issue or candidate, then the issue is decided/ candidate elected.
If two of the “big” provinces agree, then they only need support from two of the five small provinces to carry any vote.
A typical non-for-profit club or provincial organization likely has many more members than Cricket Canada. For instance, Cricket NL held elections recently with 230 members eligible to cast votes. The TDCA has 150 teams with each club eligible to vote.
In an election with a large number of voters – at any level, whether national or provincial political elections, or in not-for-profit sports organizations – candidates attempt to secure votes by public statements of their qualifications, their vision for the organization, and plans, and policies and actions they will take if elected. Voters therefore can choose the candidate that is best aligned with their own thoughts of how the organization should be run, and the best qualified to lead the organization in that direction.
An alternate and effective way of winning elections when there are only 10 members carrying votes is to directly persuade individual voters. Such persuasion can certainly still be based on the attributes put forward for large groups of voters but equally well can be based on agreements between the candidate and voters to take specific actions if elected, or an exchange of favours for support.
To illustrate how this might work, let’s consider a hypothetical example. A candidate with the backing of his province that carries four votes can be elected as president through making an agreement with the other two big provinces, or one other big province, and two small provinces. This agreement could take many forms.
For instance – some hypothetical examples:-
– You provide me with your votes for president and we can then ensure that your candidate for vice-president/ director/ secretary gets elected;
– I’ll support your group in the battle to be recognised as the official body for cricket in your province;
– I’ll make sure your players get on the national team;
– I’ll make sure your nominee is picked as manager of the national team;
– I’ll give you the job you want on the board;
– I’ll make sure you get financial support for infrastructure projects in your province.
Therefore is a system that may not elect candidates based on whether they are the best qualified for the position, but reward those who are adept at making deals in the mutual best interest of individuals or individual provinces.
These are hypothetical examples, but there is published evidence that deal-making does indeed take place. The Sports Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada was asked to arbitrate on a complaint made in regard to the 2016 Cricket Canada elections. The text of the arbitration ruling is available on-line at:-
The ruling discusses evidence provided at the hearings including the following:-
“At some point around that time, Mr. Saini decided to run for the position of President of Cricket Canada…. Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that he “lobbied” for the position of President in that he had conversations with people “who had potential voting power”, which would be the Provincial Directors. In his lobbying efforts, Mr. Saini spoke with, and sought the support of, Mr. Rashpal Bajwa, the Provincial Director for British Columbia, and Mr. Mohammed Shaikh, the Provincial Director for Ontario. Mr. Saini has been close friends with Mr. Shaikh for over 10 years. Mr. Saini also testified that he lobbied Mr. Manzoor Chaudhary, the Provincial Director for Alberta, who wanted to be in charge of the “senior program”. Mr. Saini’s phrasing of the matter was that the two men “had an understanding”. He further testified that he and the three above-named Directors “discussed how Cricket Canada would be run and who would do which portfolios”.”
The arbitrator took strong exception to these activities, writing in his decision
“The third element of impropriety in the conduct of the elections established in evidence lies in the nature of the arrangements made between Mr. Saini, who was elected President, and three Provincial Directors who were also voting members. Mr. Saini acknowledged under cross-examination that he not only sought the support of the three Directors, but that he reached an “understanding” in seeking the support of Mr. Chaudhary, the Provincial Director for Alberta, who wanted to be in charge of the “senior program”. The Panel takes this to mean that Mr. Saini promised Mr. Chaudhary he would get the portfolio he desired if the latter voted for him as President. This finding is reinforced by Mr. Saini’s testimony that he and the three directors “discussed how Cricket Canada would be run and who would do which portfolios”. In the Panel’s view, this arrangement goes far beyond mere lobbying and amounts to an improper fixing of the election for the position of President. By this arrangement, Mr. Saini would receive 12 of the 21 votes, which would guarantee him the position of President. The deal meant that the voting for President was based on an exchange of favours, as opposed to an assessment of the relative merits of the candidates and it made a sham of that part of the elections.”
This part of his ruling (he suggested these activities invalidated the election) was challenged in the Supreme Court of Ontario, and later over-turned (see the article That’s Not Cricket: Arbitration Run Amok – http://www.gwvlaw.com/blog/2017/08/thats-not-cricket-arbitration-run-amok.shtml). The judge hearing the appeal ruled that “nothing in the by-laws or the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act limits the types of communications that can be made by candidates to electors”.
The system in place at Cricket Canada is not unusual- other national sporting bodies have similar set ups. Canada Soccer has provincial members carrying weighted numbers of votes, but differs in that the Yukon NWT and Nunavut are represented, along with voting members representing athletes, leagues and professional clubs. There are 64 votes in all with the maximum held by one province being 10. Even if the three largest provinces voted together, that is only 28 votes, far short of a majority. 10 votes represents 15.6% of the total (for Cricket Canada, 4 votes represents 21% of the total at the last election).
Rugby Canada and Volleyball Canada are very similar to Cricket Canada, with 10 member unions, carrying votes weighted based on number of members in each union. Hockey Canada has 13 members, 11 of which carry 2 votes, and two of which carry 5. Thus the maximum any one member can carry is 15.6% of the total votes. Skate Canada has a much different system with every club in the country able to vote at member’s meetings, with votes weighted by number of members or each club. In this case, typically thousands of votes are cast.
What makes Cricket Canada unusual is the relatively high proportion of the votes held by individual provinces, and this makes the system particularly susceptible to deal making.
There is nothing contrary to the constitution in making deals- it can be argued that activities like this take place in many other elections at all levels. There’s also nothing new here; this is likely the way elections to the board of Cricket Canada have been conducted for years.
It is also possible that getting elected through deal making and exchanges of favours can still put a well qualified and committed person on the board. You can still get elected to the board without any deal making – I did so in 2017. What is does demonstrate, however, is that the Cricket Canada governance system is flawed. For the best functioning of the organization, the directors should be elected on the basis of their qualifications to perform the role assigned to them, and act on the basis of what is best for cricket in Canada as a whole, not based on deals and agreements made in order to get elected.
The simplest way to improve this system is to increase the number of voters in an election, making it far harder to gain a majority through deal-making.
An ideal system might be one similar to Skate Canada’s, where individual clubs carry votes, and provinces become coordinating bodies. This however requires much stronger control from the national body in member and club registration, and strict definitions of clubs.
An alternative model would be to follow the direction imposed by the ICC on the USA, following the failure in governance of the USCA. Their board has three independent directors- not voted upon but selected by a nominating committee, based on qualifications and experience they can bring to the job. Individual directors are elected by those who have taken out individual membership of the organization. A club director is elected by registered clubs, and a league director by registered leagues. A player’s director is elected by international players. The chair of the board and treasurer is elected by the board from the directors. This too would require again a comprehensive centralised registration system to put in place but certainly would result in elections less amenable to manipulation – although the process of appointing independent directors may give rise to concern.
There are other alternative governance models that could be considered- appointing an athlete director, looking at regional or league representation in the larger provinces (2 votes for Calgary 2 for Edmonton perhaps?). Change will be hard to foster, however as those who have been successful at working within the current system will have no interest in changing it.
A pre-requisite to governance reform is a proper mandatory registration system – at present Canada doesn’t really know who is playing cricket and how many cricketers there are. Provinces self-report on the number of clubs. A sensible league, club and player registration system is desperately needed- and likely could pay for itself in membership fees.