LONDON: English cricket chiefs are no longer implacably hostile to the idea of Twenty20 featuring in a future Olympic Games, one of the country’s top administrators said Thursday.
England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison’s comments came on the same day as a protest outside The Oval ahead of the start of the fifth Ashes Test slammed global cricket bosses for, among other things, turning their back on the Olympics.
Rugby Union, a sport which like cricket owes its international development to the British Empire but whose major nations now include France and Argentina, will see sevens, its nearest equivalent to Twenty20, make its Olympic debut at next year’s Games in Rio.
But cricket officials have so turned their back on Olympic involvement, with England often seen as the major stumbling block given the Games traditionally cut across their own season.
“At a time when every other sport wants to expand, the ICC (International Cricket Council) is actually shrinking the Cricket World Cup and doesn’t want to participate in the Olympics,” said Oval protest organiser Sam Collins of the #changecricket campaign.
But Harrison insisted the ECB were open to Olympic cricket.
“I think cricket should have the debate about Olympic representation,” Harrison said in an interview with British Radio’s Test Match Special on Thursday.
“It does throw up serious questions for us with our season straddling when a summer Olympics takes place but these are questions we should ask and understand.
“England is often seen as a barrier to this discussion but that’s simply not the case. If you do have a successful Olympic movement for your sport it can be transformative.”
Earlier, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside The Oval in protest against the way in which world cricket is now run.
The #changecricket campaign protest was initiated by English journalist Collins and Australian counterpart Jarrod Kimber, the co-directors of ‘Death of a Gentleman’.
Their documentary film attacks what they see as the maladministration of the ICC since the ‘Big Three’ of India, England and Australia the sport’s three wealthiest nations effectively took over the global governing body last year.
Demonstrators, including Damian Collins, a lawmaker with Britain’s governing Conservative Party, held a three minutes’ silence a minute each for India, England and Australia outside the Hobbs Gates at The Oval.
‘Death of a Gentleman’ alleges that international cricket lacks transparency, with India, England and Australia running the world game primarily in the interests of their own countries, with other nations having to fight for scraps off the table.
“Thanks to the three big nations that run world cricket England, Australia and India who also control 52 percent of the game’s revenues, Test cricket is being sacrificed in favour of the short forms of the game,” said Sam Collins.
“The other 102 countries who play the game have access to only 48 percent of the revenues.”