ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney is under the scanner after an investigation revealed his conduct over the last 12 months as being ‘unsavory and against the federation’s way of leading its operations.’
As per a report in the TOI, the ICC has asked Sawhney to go on leave. “Allegations ranging from very serious to as petty as arrogance and high-handedness, to as internally serious as hiring and sacking employees at a whim are being held against this individual. Cricket administration has been in absolute disarray and ICC had to act,” TOI quoted sources in direct knowledge of developments in their report.
The report further states that the ICC commissioned UK-based accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) earlier this year to investigate Sawhney’s “manner of conduct” within the organization and several misdemeanors on the part of Sawhney were looked in to after interviewing the employees at all levels over the last one month. The information gathered from the individual and response has been “detrimental”, adds the TOI report.
It is also being reported that Sawhney’s role in dictating the media-rights cycle, unilateral allotment of ICC events (or the promise of it), employee harassment are also under the scanner.
“There have been testimonies from multiple ICC staff about his ‘abrasive behaviour’ which hasn’t been great for the morale of a very efficient group of employees,” a senior official close to the ICC Board told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
The 56-year-old hasn’t been attending office for some time and was asked to go on leave on Tuesday.
“The Board of Directors are trying to find a compromise formula where Sawhney leaves the post with dignity by tendering his resignation,” the source said.
He has been under pressure since the election process for the new chairman was set in motion last year, which ended with Greg Barclay taking the position in November.
It is alleged that Sawhney’s “authoritarian style of functioning” is far removed from the inclusive approach taken by Richardson and has not gone down well with the employees.
Also, a few cricket boards seem unhappy with him for backing interim chairman Imran Khawaja during the elections last year.
“He hasn’t exactly been a favourite of a lot of cricket boards during the past couple of years. Firstly, a lot of people didn’t like his passive involvement when Greg Barclay of New Zealand and Imran Khwaja of Singapore were in contention to replace Shahshank Manohar,” a senior BCCI source privy to developments in the ICC told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
The second reason why some of the bigger boards are upset is his backing to the ICC’s recent decision of asking boards to bid and pay a fee for hosting events during the next cycle.
It is understood that BCCI, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia are completely against the idea and have made their displeasure clear at the various board meetings.
Another reason is a proposal backed by him to have at least one ICC flagship event every year during the next eight-year cycle from 2023-2031, which hasn’t also got the vote of the ‘Big Three’.
In case Sawhney chooses not to resign, it could lead to a long-drawn removal procedure by the all-powerful Board of Directors.
“Manu also has support within the board which is now split into two factions of 9 and 8 members on each side. To remove Manu, one would need 12 out of the 17 votes, which is two-third of the Board of Directors since he came with the approval of a majority of the board.
“It will be interesting if the faction comprising ‘Big Three’ can get 12 out of the 17 votes required to remove him,” the source said.
A Media professional, Manu Sawhney, had taken took charge as Chief Executive of the ICC after the 2019 World Cup, replacing Dave Richardson. Sawhney was with ESPN Star Sports for 17 years and was responsible for scaling the business and doubling annual revenues.
He also led the global broadcast partnership deal with the ICC that ran from 2007-2015. He is also a non-executive director and member of the Audit Committee of Manchester United Ltd.
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(With PTI inputs)