ICC Revamp Plan is Marxist? – ‘Cricket’ In The Eyes Of Cultural Marxism

Cricket has become the unofficial national sport in Sri Lanka. In 1996 we became the world champions and emerged as one of the most prominent cricketing nations in the world. Still we can vividly remember how Arjuna Ranatunga nudged the world cup winning runs through third man, much to the disappointment of Aussie fast bowler Glenn Mcgrath. This might be one occasion which the whole country celebrated as one.The players who represented the national team were gloried and venerated sometimes to the level of divinity by some.


Eighteen years down the line, things have changed to a great extent. The game has been commercialized and players, by and large, are driven by commercial motives. Even the ICC has changed so have the rules of the game. It was in this contest that the recent revamp plan of the ICC came into being
The ICC, on Saturday(February 08) ,  passed a wide-ranging and controversial resolution shaking up the  governance and structure of the world’s top most cricket body, despite strident protests from some nations. Protesters claimed that the resolution gave too much power to the "Big Three" of India, England and Australia.The dominant trio seemed to be the big winners after the proposals were approved by the necessary eight out of 10 full members at a hastily convened International Cricket Council (ICC) board meeting in Singapor.

According to some reforms, the "Big Three" were given permanent seats on a new executive committee that consists of five members. The financial restructuring  allows India, cricket’s biggest fund generator, England and Australia to pocket the greatest share of the ICC revenue. Soon after the resolution the blame game started. Some said South Africa cheated at the last moment by voting in favour of proposals. Be that as it maym the future will determine the final  outcome of this proposal.

We are in a dilemma of some sort when it comes to these changes.Anyway it is worthwhile to reduce the “cognitive dissonance”( cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs) by reading Marx! According to Cultural Marxism ,in advanced monopoly capitalism the entire sports ensemble becomes a product sold to major corporations that need to dispose of surplus production in order to realize profits. In our times, sports are shaped more by the commercial needs of advanced monopoly capital. There are several points at which its needs shape the structure and development of sports.

The most significant structural change in modern sports is the gradual and continuing ‘commodification’ of sports. This means that the social, psychological, physical, and cultural uses of sports are assimilated into the commercial needs of advanced monopoly capital(Young ,1996). If we really analyzed “Cricket” the market has been mostly dominated by India, Australia and England. For example, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the richest cricket association in the world with a net worth of more than US $1.5 billion as in 2006. Of all the 10 full members of ICC (International Cricket Committee), BCCI contributes almost 70% of ICC’s expenses on cricket (economywatch).

And also Young(1990) argues “Because sports events generate large audiences and participants (for any or all of the reasons mentioned earlier: the alienated solidarity, the alienated sexuality, or the alienated aesthetics of play), advertising firms buy the audiences and sell them to capitalist firms that are large enough to have national markets and wealthy enough to pay the costs of the audience, commercials, media time, and teams involved”.

Again we can see the difference between the large audience belonging to the Big Three" and other countries .According to Peter Oborne (associate editor of “The Spectator”), with an audience of 500 million viewers, Indian revenues are so much greater than  those of any other country and a tour by India can totally transform any other country’s cricket finances. English tours are the next most profitable, then at some distance Australia’s. In the same article Oborne observes that the changes in ICC proposal lead India to decide on who, where and when to play. The money will be split using a principle of weighting, which essentially will give India a share calculated on the size of her massive media market. Leaked versions of the paper suggest India’s revenue from the ICC will rise from $100 million to over $500 million. Even though we discuss about the  Big Three”, the dominance of India cannot be ignored.

Of course there are arguments about the suture and the trajectory of the game. But it is better for us to understand the logic and dynamics behind the market behaviour. Two decades ago, participating in a cricket tournament abroad was a major breakthrough for Sri Lankan cricketers. But nowadays it is all about “Deals” and “Franchises”! Now, doesn’t that resemble the concept of  impermanence coming in Buddhist philosophy  which says that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux.  


Young T. R.(1990), “The Sociology of Sport: Structural Marxist and Cultural Marxist Approaches”, Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan., 1986), pp. 3-28

(Nalin Abeysekera is a Senior Lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka. He may be reached at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )