Earl Eddings, the Cricket Australia chairman, has indicated that the broad issues of anti-corruption processes and sports betting are up for discussion with the Australian Cricketers Association, though he has stopped short of meeting with its president Shane Watson to specifically address the Emily Smith WBBL case.
In a week where CA has faced criticism for banning Smith for the rest of the season after she posted the Hobart Hurricanes’ batting line-up on her Instagram account an hour before the scheduled start of play, and also for its commercial relationship with sports betting, Eddings told ESPNcricinfo that the governing body needed to strike a balance between the issues of the moment and wider considerations. He spoke by phone with Watson on Thursday, and has also corresponded with the ACA’s chairman Greg Dyer.
The integrity unit at CA, headed by Sean Carroll, is effectively ring-fenced from the rest of the governing body on the basis that it must have the authority to investigate any individual at CA, from the chairman down. It is also linked to the ICC’s rigorous anti-corruption code and unit, making any intervention by CA’s board or management more problematic than it might be for other issues in the game.
“I spoke to Shane Watson yesterday, Greg and I have exchanged emails. We always talk to the ACA, but our hands are tied,” Eddings said. “We can’t change the decision under the code of conduct. As I have said to Shane, we don’t need to meet. There’s other forums where we can meet, and we can’t change the decision and won’t change the decision. So getting the two boards together I thought was superfluous.
“While this week with the Emily Smith situation there are some disagreements about the outcome, I think it’s been done respectfully and with mutual respect. Like anything it is a work in progress. We established the ACC [Australian Cricket Council] together, that’s been a great initiative. [The ACC] is an advisory body to bring in leaders of Australian cricket to talk about significant strategic issues. Would the Emily Smith situation be one of those, probably not, maybe the process might be. It’s about delivering the future of Australian cricket, getting all the stakeholders feeling like they’ve got an important say in issues that affect Australian cricket.”
Dyer and Eddings have enjoyed a far more constructive relationship than previous CA/ACA chairmen, with the previous CA chairman David Peever particularly unpopular during the pay dispute in 2016-17. “I think our relationship is really strong, probably not my words but the ACA would say it is the strongest it’s been since my time on the board,” Eddings said. “Like anything, it’s a matter of working for the good of the game and showing mutual respect.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, and I would expect the ACA, that’s their job to come out and protect their players – if they don’t do that, why are they there. So I’ve got no problem with them flying the flag for the players.”
The parallel lines of CA’s harsh integrity stance and commercial relationship with with Bet365 have also been criticised this week by the noted anti-gambling advocate Tim Costello, who addressed CA’s chief executive Kevin Roberts and state and territory CEOs in Perth last December. “What Emily Smith did in simply posting a team make-up has zero consequences on the game of cricket itself, and was clearly not corrupt,” Costello told News Corp. “If [CA] was serious about distancing itself from betting scandals, it would not take a single dollar from the gambling industry.”
Eddings acknowledged that while community expectations around sports betting advertising are changing, any review of CA’s relationship with betting would need to guard against social justice overreach.
“As a board we always consider what are the issues coming up, how does that affect our brand, is it the right thing to do,” he said. “At the moment we’re focused on how Australian cricket is travelling. Certainly there is a mood out there in the public, we’ve seen the social activism about it. At the moment we’re happy to have Bet365 as a corporate partner, and we’ll review that going forward.
“I think as any sport, particularly as Australia’s truly national sport, we need to be really cognisant of our role in society, without being over the top and without overreaching. I think we’ve done that well in the last 12 months with pay equity for female players, parental leave, our transgender policy. Those are examples of where there’s a broader community reach you have and a responsibility you have. We’re very conscious as a board of our role, without overreaching into some of those areas.”