In February 1993, the International Cricket Council (ICC) were due to have a routine annual meeting at its head office at Lord’s in London.
While the world was changing all around it (the late 80’s and early 90’s was a particularly tumultuous time), cricket’s governance had remained virtually unchanged since the formation of the ICC in 1909. It was the fiefdom of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The MCC’s offices were the ICC’s offices and the MCC president was ex officio also the ICC president.
The 9 Full and 19 Associate Member countries had earlier in principle agreed that the 1996 World Cup would be hosted by England. The February 1993 meeting was supposed to be a rubber stamp. That is until India started having second thoughts…India sensed the shifting power balance and started canvassing for the tournament to be held on the subcontinent.
With the increased membership, the ICC had a complex voting system at the time. Crucially to pass a decision about an issue such as the hosting of the World Cup, you needed the vote of one of the ICC’s founding members, England or Australia. In preparation for taking its stance, India and its subcontinental supporters garnered enough support from the Full and Associate Members, but it was not going to get the vote from either England or Australia. At the meeting, the Indian faction decided to play the long game. The meeting went on into the small hours of the morning. In the end India bullied England into capitulation: The 1996 World Cup would be hosted jointly by Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, and England was awarded the 1999 edition.
A decision had been reached, but the ramifications went much further than merely who would host the next two World Cups. After this meeting, the MCC, and by extension England and Australia, quickly started to lose its power grip on cricket.
Soon after the February meeting, the ICC created the post of Chief Executive, effectively taking away from the MCC all operational powers. The Australian David Richards was the first person appointed to the position. In July 1993, the legendary West Indian batsman Sir Clyde Walcott was elected as the ICC’s first ever non-British Chairman.
Lord’s had been a logical venue when the ICC was still administered by the MCC. But the growing power of India and Pakistan in world cricket had made the continued control of international cricket by a British private members club anachronistic and unsustainable. First, the ICC vacated the offices of the MCC at Lord’s and moved to another part of the ground. Then, during the latter stages of 1993, again with India at the forefront, the ICC sought tax exemption from the UK government. When this was denied, India led the move for the ICC’s commercial arm to be relocated to Monaco for tax reasons. More than just metaphorically, the ICC was literally slowly moving away from Lord’s and closer to Asia.
Finally, in August 2005, again with India being the prime mover and shaker, the ICC moved its head office to Dubai and closed its offices at Lord’s and in Monaco. While ostensibly the driver of the ICC’s move to Dubai was the wish to bring all its employees together in one tax efficient location, the real reason was the wish to move offices closer to the increasingly important new centres of cricketing power in South Asia.