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Restraint of Players in Twenty20 Cricket

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Twenty20 cricket has been viewed as the saviour at all levels of cricket. First conceived by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in 2003 to address falling spectator interest, the increased excitement and speed of this form of cricket soon boosted attendances. The commercial success of the English Twenty20 competition did not go unnoticed, and was first replicated by other national bodies who enjoyed similar success in attracting greater fans and sponsors, and then by private entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the global phenomenon. In the West Indies, Allen Stanford established a competition under the auspices of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for the various countries in the region, and a lucrative match between a West Indian and English team for a $20million prize. In India, the Indian Cricket League (ICL) was established, and gained traction after the national fervour with their win in the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship in 2007. Given the unsanctioned nature of this competition, it was seen to be a real threat to the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) monopoly. It had the financial and playing resources to take a large share of the Indian market, capitalising on the perception amongst the Indian public and domestic competition of the mismanagement by the BCCI and their inability to compensate its second-tier players. However, the great success has also meant greater demands on the services of players, invariably leading to disputes such as the witch-hunt of the ICL by the BCCI.

The origins of the ICL were unnervingly similar to that of the World Series Cricket (WSC) concept, started by the late Kerry Packer in 1977. In both instances, the financial backers of the competitions were affiliated with television networks. They had both repeatedly made superior monetary bids than their competitors to their respective national boards for the broadcasting rights of international cricket within that country, but were rejected. Naturally, both competitions were viewed as a cancer that would disrupt the fabric of the game. In the case of WSC, this was because WSC was so successful in recruiting 66 of the best players in the world; forcing Australia to field a second-string side for their official Tests because the ACB refused to select WSC players for their official Tests, unlike the WICB. Similarly, the BCCI were concerned that their domestic cricketers would be recruited away; and in response they decided first to double their average daily rates and then to stage their own Twenty20 tournament with the support of all the other national governing bodies. However this did not stop the ICL from recruiting several prominent Indian and ex-international cricketers.

Restrictions on World Series Cricket: Greig v Insole

The repercussions faced by ICL players was also akin to that faced by the WSC cricketers, who were banned from first-class cricket (including Test matches) for daring to side with Packer. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Test and County Cricket Board (the predecessor to the ECB) administered international and English first-class cricket respectively. In July 1977, the ICC changed their rules so that players involved in a match not sanctioned by the ICC, after September 1977, would be retrospectively disqualified from taking part in Test cricket unless the express consent of the ICC was provided. The ICC then issued a resolution specifically referring to WSC as an unsanctioned competition, and also recommended that national governing bodies also prevent these cricketers from playing in their domestic competitions. The TCCB followed this, and resolved to change its rules so that any player who was subject to the ICC ban would also be prevented from taking part in first-class county cricket. Three players, Tony Greig, John Snow and Mike Procter, all of whom had contracted with WSC to take part in unofficial tests, sought a declaration from the English High Court that the change of rules by ICC and those proposed by the TCCB were ultra vires and an unlawful restraint of trade.

Following the principles of Lord McNaughton in Nordenfeldt regarding reasonable restraints of trade, Slade J found that both the TCCB and ICC had legitimate interests worthy of protection. The ICC argued that it acted reasonably in introducing rules that would protect it from the competitive threat posed by WSC. As international cricket provided the largest portion of the money through which lower levels of the game were financed, the ICC argued that the ban was reasonably necessary to prevent players from being involved in a competition which could threaten the existence of Test match cricket and be of detriment to cricket at all levels. Though Slade J did accept that WSC posed at least a short-term threat, this was not particularly serious, and it was possible that WSC could actually contribute to the publicity of the sport. He found that the long term threat could be reasonably (though not necessarily validly) dealt with through a prospective ban on those playing in unsanctioned matches. Slade J found that retrospective bans would deprive a professional cricketer of the opportunity to be employed in an important part of his professional field, and thus were unjust. The ICC was also found to have failed to satisfactorily show the financial impact on lower levels of cricket of WSC, and thus the ICC failed to justify its action. Therefore the new rules were held to be ultra vires and void as being an unreasonable restraint of trade.

The consequences of the ban at the domestic level by the TCCB were regarded as being much more severe. Whereas Test cricket were regarded as opportunities for players to supplement their incomes; first class cricket was the only avenue to make a living (in the true occupation sense) by playing cricket. This issue was particularly salient as two of the claimants were out of contention for Test matches because of their advanced age and South African nationality. Slade J accepted that combined effect of the length of their WSC contracts and their age meant that a ban would have effectively been imposed as they would never be able to play first-class cricket again. Slade J also believed that the public interest of the spectators demanded that top-tier players such as the claimants be allowed to play the first class game, and that the ban would prove injurious to the sport through a loss in admission receipts. He also considered that as WSC was more likely to be damaging to Australian domestic cricket, and that the constitution of the TCCB defined their exclusive concern to be cricket in the UK, the TCCB was also found to be acting



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