It’s been a tumultuous two weeksfor Cricket Australia (CA), which has appointed a new CEO and interim chairman, in a bid to reform its battered culture and tarnished public image.
New CEO Kevin Roberts GAICD started work in the top job on 25 October as the new CEO for 17 years. Just days later, board chairman David Peever stood down amid a storm of controversy following the damning findings of an independent cultural review. Replacing Peever for now is Victorian Earl Eddings GAICD as interim chairman.
Both Roberts and Eddings take over at an extremely sensitive time, after the review found the Cricket Australia culture was “arrogant”, “bullying” and “dictatorial”. The report by the Ethics Centre also slammed the organisation as "arrogant" and "controlling" and one which had become "driven by money".
The report, commissioned after the ball tampering crisis in South Africa, said there was a culture of "blame-shifting", that CA was "not collaborative" and behaved in a "dictatorial" style with stakeholders.
Eddings, who is Managing Director at Melbourne consultancy Riskcom, is currently co-chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee. He emerged as the Cricket Australia heir apparent after his appointment as deputy chairman, a position that was vacant during Peever's first term. A former first-grade player and president for North Melbourne in Melbourne's grade competition, Eddings became a CA director in 2008 and remained after changes to the board's structure in 2012.
Whoever is appointed as the permanent new chair has the difficult job of leading Australian cricket out of arguably its most turbulent period since the World Series.
Mark Taylor exits
Mark Taylor was reportedly in the running for the top job but quit on 5 November from his role as a Cricket Australia director after the 18 months of turmoil took its toll. His broadcasting commitments also put him out of contention. He said findings from the Ethics Centre review were part of his decision, but not the sole factor – last year’s pay dispute and the relationships that fractured as a result also played their part.
“While we would like Mark to continue as a director on the board, we appreciate his reasons and have accepted his resignation,” Eddings said in a statement. “Mark has given an enormous amount to Australian cricket over three decades as a player, captain and board member.
“While it has been a difficult few weeks for Australian cricket, the board of Cricket Australia and the executive team are committed to rebuilding and earning the trust of the cricket community.”
Taylor’s exit means CA’s nominations committee will have to add two new directors to the board and find a new permanent chair. The new directors will be selected by a nominations committee consisting of South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) president Andrew Sinclair, Cricket Victoria chairman Paul Barker and two CA directors.
A new direction
New CEO, former Adidas executive takes over CA at a sensitive time, when board governance and the culture of the men's team are being reviewed. The team’s reputation was left in smoking ruins by the ball tampering scandal in South Africa.
Melbourne-based Roberts, 46, who is a global business executive and former Sheffield Shield cricketer, has in the past few years served variously as a Cricket Australia board director (2012-2015), Chief Operating Officer (2018) and Executive General Manager (2015-2018).
Hired as CEO after a global recruitment search, Roberts takes over the new role today after CA's AGM, when James Sutherland formally steps down. Sutherland has held the top job since 2001. Roberts has acted as Sutherland’s deputy for a number of years since joining the CA board as an independent director in 2012.
"It's … true that the game and Cricket Australia have faced some difficult times recently, but we will bounce back, just as our organisation has overcome challenges on and off the field many times in its proud history,” Roberts told cricket.com.au.
"Under my leadership, we will be deeply committed to providing the best experiences of cricket to everyone who watches the game or plays the game, and we will work closely with our broadcasters and commercial partners to deliver on that commitment."
Roberts' appointment comes six months after the cricket crisis over ball tampering that saw Test captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year, and opener Cameron Bancroft suspended for nine months.
The crisis led to men's team coach Darren Lehmann resigning and gave rise to a wide-ranging culture review of practices within the men's team and CA overall, which is due to be completed in the next few weeks.
This year, Roberts also acted as the face of Cricket Australia during toxic negotiations for a new pay deal with players but talks deteriorated and led to the boycott of a tour last year, before the issue was resolved. "There's no doubt it was a challenging situation," he said of the pay dispute.
Roberts was described by CA chairman David Peever as "the best candidate from a very strong field". His previous CEO roles were at athletic brand 2XU and at Fusion Retail Brands. He also worked in executive roles for Adidas in Germany, Hong Kong and Melbourne.
Roberts told a media conference in Melbourne that he is determined to mend fractured relationships in the sport with stakeholders like the Australian Cricket Association and says his priority is to restore the faith of Australian cricket supporters. "We won't be perfect, but I can promise you that we'll be genuine in our quest to build respect and to build trust right across the Australian cricket community."
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