ICC face £50m claim from television firm over World Cup

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The Independent Online

The International Cricket Council will refuse to retreat in the face of a compensation claim of nearly £50 million by their television partners in the wake of the World Cup. Malcolm Speed, the chief executive, has declared his hand in a trenchant annual report to be published this week.

His uncompromising comments, characteristic of his stance during several disputes in the last year, make it clear that he has no intention of changing his method despite mounting external criticism: "The ICC have responded to all these challenges. Some of the issues remain unresolved, but overall the ICC took on a greater role for leading the sport."

Speed also insists that the ICC will not alter course on the political issues which continue to dog them, especially over Zimbabwe. "If the ICC took into account political considerations in deciding where matches should be played, few member countries would be immune from the risk that one or other country would refuse to play against it," he said.

The ICC are now preparing to clash with both the Global Cricket Corporation and the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The potential risk is a breakdown in the game's international structure and a schism between Asian nations and the rest.

GCC hold the TV rights for all ICC tournaments until 2007. They paid $550m for the privilege but now want about a ninth of that back. Some of the claim concerns the loss of revenue connected with the cancelled World Cup matches: England's in Zimbabwe and New Zealand's in Kenya.

But by far the greater proportion is mixed up with the image-rights dispute in India. There were several breaches during the World Cup, some of which were recognised by the ICC at the time. GCC claim that the official sponsors were perpetually undermined by ambush marketing in India.

The ICC concede that they will have to forfeit some money, but are unhappy with large sections of GCC's claim. When that is resolved, Speed will have to go into battle with his old foe Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Indian board. The ICC will expect India to bear the brunt of the costs, because they signed the Participating Nations Agreement recognising official sponsors' rights. Dalmiya will insist on contending it.

The process is likely to take two years. It will start at the ICC's annual meeting in London this week. The new president, Ehsan Mani, the Pakistani who takes over from the Australian Malcolm Gray, could have a decisive role.

Speed has also expressed his dissatisfaction with umpires and match referees in implementing the Code of Conduct. He does not sound in the mood to blink first.