Downhill skiing in Dubai

At the time of writing Andrew Hall was skiing. Downhill skiing, not water skiing. In Dubai.

The players had to spend very nearly a full 24 hours in the Gulf city waiting for their connection to Delhi because Emirates are the generous sponsors of the ICC and all participating nations are flown to ICC events aboard the “Emirates” carrier.

Anybody who has visited the city would have seen the effects of the oil wealth and probably witnessed some of the material luxuries and even excesses that it has created, including some of the most lavish and oppulent hotels and shopping malls anywhere in the world. Some of the excesses are quite simply bizarre and some are simply humorous – including the artificial ski-slope so enjoyed by ‘Hally’.

He first experienced it in August this year when wife Leannie was on her way to join him in Colombo for the one-day series but never made it past Dubai because of the bomb-induced cancellation of the tour. Andrew told her to wait in Dubai and, when the squad finally arrived there, via Hong Kong, the Halls enjoyed an unexpected but highly enjoyable holiday exploring the souks and markets of the old city. And skiing!

The stop-over on the way to the Champions Trophy is not the first the team has made and it certainly won’t be the last. And having 20 hours is actually a pleasure – it provides time enough to shop, ski and sleep in a delicious, complimentary hotel room. It’s the five, six and seven hour stop-overs that really irritate. But Emirates is a crucial sponsor and the flights are free, so it’s not smart to complain too loudly.

Sponsors in all sports are crucial. Very few prominent sports would have grown without them and even fewer would be able to survive without them. People who moan and whinge that Newlands and Kingsmead have had their names ammended recently probably have no idea of how those two stadiums and their administrators had battled to keep their heads above water in the preceding ten years.

But the ICC should be very careful how far they take the process of signing sponsors. They are currently in the process of renegotiating their rights deal with brokers GCC and I have heard talk that the last number, which was US$550 million, could be nearly doubled for the period between the 2007 World Cup and the one in 2015.

The deal will be the most ‘inclusive’ in sports history, which means that everything the players eat, drink and think will be sponsored or provided by an ‘official supplier’. There was even talk, at one stage, of players being required to dress in ‘official’ casual clothing in their spare time between games during ICC tournaments. At what stage does a player belong to himself? Quite apart from the fact that he may have a personal endorsement with Levis, why should he be forced to wear another brand of jeans?

Three teams at next years’ World Cup are being forced to participate without the branding of their national sponsor because they are deemed to be in conflict with sponsorships secured by the ICC. South Africa owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Standard Bank yet, because the ICC have signed Scotia Bank as a global sponsor, Standard Bank (which isn’t even a direct rival) will be blacklisted.

In its efforts to maximise the value of all its ‘rights’, the ICC may well be forgetting the most basic and important rights of all. Human rights.
And as a result of its drive to generate as much money as conceivably possible, they may well start doing the opposite for its most important assets – its members. Will Standard Bank renew their sponsorship of the South African team at the same price in future if there is a risk of them being excluded from World Cups and Champions Trophy tournaments, the greatest exposure the game has to offer? I wouldn’t. And Travelex are in the same position as sponsors of the Australian team, as are the National Bank of New Zealand.

To some people, money is everything. But at some point they must remember that money corrupts. Some people even believe that it is the root of all evil.

Happy skiing.

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