Percy Sonn accepts invitation to visit Zimbabwe

Published: Saturday, July 8, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Newly appointed ICC President Percy Sonn will visit Zimbabwe to take stock of the cricket crisis in the country, which led to its voluntary withdrawal from the Test arena.

Mr Sonn has accepted an invitation from Zimbabwe Cricket to visit the country and said he was looking forward to understand the situation prevailing in the country.

''What I want is some degree of understanding of the issues that surround the administration of cricket within Zimbabwe,'' Mr Sonn said in a speech at the ICC's Business Forum at Lord's.

''I am delighted to say I will get that (understanding) following an invitation to visit the country from Zimbabwe Cricket,'' he added.

Mr Sonn will make the trip with ICC Chief Executive Officer Mr Malcolm Speed and said the organisation was looking to work out ways for Zimbabwe's early return to the Test cricket but added that it would also depend upon how prepared the country was to come back.

''I will hear first hand of the challenges that confront the sport there, how those challenges will be dealt with and, at the same time, we will discuss how the ICC can assist the game in Zimbabwe,'' Mr Sonn further stated.

''We are now at a stage where Zimbabwe has voluntarily stepped back from its Test commitments and, moving forward, they will only return to that arena when they are ready to do so,'' he added.

The newly appointed President said he would report back his experience to the ICC's Executive Board, which will then decide the future course of action.

''Once I have done that I will then report back to the ICC's Executive Board so that we, as an organisation, are better informed about what is happening there,'' he explained.

The 56 year-old, who took over from Ehsan Mani, said the next 12 months were vital for the long-term health of the game.

''During that time we will be negotiating the sale of our commercial and broadcast rights for the next eight years to 2015,'' he said.

Mr Sonn said he expected the revenues to rise considerably compared to 2000 when the ICC netted in 550 million dollars from commercial and broadcast rights sale, which were used to provide assistance to the member nations.

''The last time we did that, in 2000, we received 550 million dollars and that money has benefited every one of our Members in some way. It provided financial security that has allowed us to develop plans to take the game forward and the next agreement will, we hope, do the same,'' he said.

He, however, stressed that the basic aim of the organisation was to promote the game and the revenue earned was being put to use for that sole purpose and rejected suggestions that the ICC was vying for any commercial profits.

''While commercialism is important, we must not let it dominate the landscape or lose sight of what this great game is all about.

Financial considerations cannot be our only driver and cricketing considerations must also play a vital part in any decisions the ICC makes,'' he said.

He also called for greater cooperation and understanding between the member nations for better progress of the game.

''We should never overlook the simple truth that, as an organisation, we are stronger when we all act together. It sends out the right messages to our stakeholders and it is something else I am keen to maintain over my time as ICC President,'' added Mr Sonn.

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