The CCA and duty of care

21 May 2004

The presentation given recently at the first Town Hall meeting in Toronto by the Canadian Cricket Association clearly stated the aspirations of the new administration. There can be no doubt that the previous administration bequeathed a bankrupt organization, both in a financial sense and also in a management and structural sense.  It must have been very disappointing to the new administration that the well publicized "Town Hall Meeting" was virtually ignored by the Toronto cricket community, on a weekend when no cricket was played. Apart from the Sennick Team, essentially there were only four of us who were interested enough to show up, and one of those was a member of the national team.

What I can report is that Ben Sennick presents himself as well meaning, diligent and committed. What was not clear was who is he going to have available to perform all the tasks of organising and monitoring the innumerable committees, (which do not appear to have been put together), to fulfill the multitude of aspirations over the next seven years.

The discussion which developed amongst the few attendees, and the majority of those associated with the new administration, was focussed by a young cricketer/teacher, on reaching out to the schools in the greater Toronto area. There is no doubt that there is a vast pool of young cricketers in the schools systems within the greater Toronto area, (euphemistically and generally referred to as the GTA).

Yesterday I watched cricket organised by the north district convenor of the Toronto School Board at Sunnybrook Park. There were two double headers played on the two grounds being used, which means that there were 88 school cricketers availing themselves of the cricket programme run by the Toronto School Board. The games were officiated by members of the Toronto Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association. None of these student cricketers needed to be taught how to play the game. In one school I have visited the language during recess and lunch is Urdu, and the game played in the school yard is cricket from now until the end of the school year.

In my conversation with the teacher who is the TSB Regional Coordinator for the 'north district', we discussed the issue of 'Duty of Care'.  The Toronto School Board is very well organised to provide cricket for its constituency, which is clearly stated in the policy document "Boys' Cricket - TDSSAA Playing Regulations". The problem for the TSB is not the provision of the facilities. The issue raised by the cricketer/teacher at the recent CCA Town Hall Meeting was that teachers are assigned as coaches without a knowledge of the game. I am not sure that within the GTA that is an issue, as clearly the players know how to play cricket. What is also clear is the TSB's legal obligation for 'duty of care' for their students for all extracurricular activities. Hence the participation of teachers who know nothing about cricket in the TSB's cricket programme.

In Canada today, the obligation of 'duty of care' extends to all sports participants of all ages. Any sporting body that provides the means of holding competition has a responsibility to the participants above and beyond scheduling, providing officials and facilities. Such duty means that the participants' health, well-being and safety are paramount. Such responsibility includes on-field conditions, safe conduct in the course of play, protective equipment, and proper supervision and management for youth teams. Many sporting organizations in Canada have this duty of care clearly outlined in policy documents, and in some sports (soccer for instance) such responsibilities are enshrined in the laws.

How does duty of care apply to cricket, and cricket in Canada? On the playing field umpires are required by Code 2000 to be cognizant of the playing conditions, in that they must not be hazardous to the players. Further, the safety of play during any game of cricket, requires that umpires take action when they consider the mode of play is dangerous.  This is applicable at any level of competency, from the most junior of cricketers to the Canadian team in international events.

In September 2002, the Toronto District School Board published a ten page document "Boy's Cricket - TDSSAA Playing Regulations.". Of the  many factors related to duty of care is that "Officials are  responsible for assuring that the game site is safe for play. Officials are authorized to cancel the game if unsafe conditions exist  ....and that 2 "carded" umpires will be requested by the regional  convener for each match. In the event that only 1 umpire is available,  the team at bat will provide the square-leg umpire."

This duty of care document also provides that "Officials are responsible for assuring that the game site is safe for play.  Officials are authorized to cancel the game if unsafe conditions exist. Coaches must comply with the decision of the officials in this regard.".

Within the provisions of the Toronto School Board Playing  Regulations it is stated that "No player should stand within 8  meters in front of or square to the batsman.".  Now if that does not indicate "Duty of Care" I  am going back to following french cricket. The CCA may have an opportunity to increase its depth of coaching capacity if it were to educate the 'teacher coaches'. The implicit question is  'can they provide the resources'?

Beyond the cricket fields of Canada, the English Cricket Board has recently published a significant policy document covering a much wider scope of 'Duty of Care'. The  policy document is available as a pdf file at  http://www.play-cricket.com/content/view.asp?id=50293&cid=243

This policy specifies the requirement for a police check of the background for those who wish to be involved with young cricketers. ECB 2004 guidelines require a mandatory course in "recognizing and dealing with child abuse."  The exact wording is in the syllabus on the coaching site of ecb.co.uk  The Toronto School Board has this policy also

In NCCP (National Certification Coaching Programme) courses, similar ground is covered and it is made very clear to the participants that grads of the NCCP level 2 and above are now morally and legally required to report suspected cases of abuse. In Canada the NCCP course covers similar ground, and it is made very clear to the participants that graduates of the NCCP level 2 are now required, morally and legally, to report the suspicion of abuse.

More locally, the spectre of 'duty of care' would appear to involve one of the Canadian national team members in WC 2003. canadacricket.com has learned very specific details about the apparent lack of care for one player. A member of the Sennick team has acknowledged that he knows of the details, as he was in South Africa at the time, and it would appear that he was regularly in touch with many of the players at that time. The player alleges that he sprained his back during a game and consulted a doctor who advised that he get an x-ray and a cortisone injection. The team massage therapist indicated that funds were not available at that time. After another game the player's back was sore again. The official ICC doctor at that game examined the player and referred him to another physician, who indicated that he would give a cortisone injection. This physician apparently indicated that a bone scan and an MRI  was recommended. The player relates he was told that he had a serious injury and if he continued playing he might be paralyzed. What can be deduced from the report written by the player is that the player received no medical treatment whilst in South Africa.

The abrogation of 'duty of care' to this player by the tour  management, and by extension the CCA, presents the liability of duty of care front and centre to the new administration in a very real sense. This abrogation was preceded by the neglect of the tour management in abandoning four of the Canadian child cricketers for the Disney Tournament at the Orlando International Airport. This can only be described as flagrant negligence. Having interviewed, with a witness, two American parents who visited the King City grounds for the Americas Tournament who were privy to the incident, and having made this known to those closely associated with the Sennick Team, I am aghast that the tour official is very much associated with the Sennick team.

Ben Sennick requires all the help he can get from the Canadian cricket community. Regrettably his advisors appear to live in an ivory tower, virtually insulated from the grass roots of Canadian cricket. That was manifestly declared by the Toronto cricket community by their failure to show up at the recent Town Hall meeting. As an independent communicator all I can do is write stories. There was no particular story to tell about the first of a series of Town Hall meetings in Toronto, unless the story is about the official who was on the verge of apoplexy with respect to the Toronto School Board requirement for police checks of anyone involved with their cricket programme. (Jon Harris, with files from Colin Mohammed and Dave Liverman.).