The International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to increase the men’s 50-over World Cups post 2023 to 14 teams in a “compromise” amid widespread support amongst powerbrokers for even more countries to be part of the sport’s flagship tournament.
Cricket’s ‘global’ event featured a measly 10 teams at the 2019 World Cup in the U.K. meaning Full Member nations Zimbabwe and Ireland missed out. And the 2023 World Cup in India is also set to boast the same number meaning it has only increased by just two teams since the opening edition in 1975.
There has long been an outcry over the current format leading to much squabbling amongst administrators but little action. With the ICC sorting its events plan for the next broadcast rights cycle from 2023-31, decisions need to be made imminently over the formats of future World Cups.
After being essentially paralyzed last year amid stonewalling over an excruciating chair election process, there is now an emphasis to move quickly with the all-important Chief Executives’ Committee (CEC) meeting regularly with the World Cup format being the hot issue.
In an informal CEC meeting on Tuesday, a 14-team World Cup in 2027 – a concept first reported by Tim Wigmore in The Telegraph – with teams split into two groups appeared to gain consensus, according to sources, after being favored by the ICC.
As I reported last week, there is “strong support” from those on the ICC board and the CEC over a 16-team World Cup but that sentiment has been sullied by a feeling of inevitability that the ICC want to press ahead with 14 teams – the number used at the 2003, 2011 and 2015 editions.
“Sixteen teams is seen as a drastic change by the ICC, who believe it is not feasible at the moment,” a source privy to the discussions told me. “There must be proper justification for 16 teams but that is not the case due to financial and logistical challenges.
“Sixteen teams would obviously be much better for the Associates countries. It really should be 20 teams.”
With the big boards, including the highly influential India, apparently indifferent, according to sources, it appears a fait accompli a 14-team World Cup in 2027 will be locked in.
The ICC, according to sources, is pushing for that figure to somewhat satisfy broadcasters, who have seemingly been spooked since the 16-team 2007 World Cup when India and Pakistan were knocked out early in the tournament staged in the Caribbean.
Unlike FIFA, which has no broadcast partner for its soccer World Cups, cricket seemingly needs to seek the green light from broadcasters.
“Generally for our tournaments the view of the broadcaster is taken into consideration seriously,” an ICC board member told me. “Unlike in soccer, cricket has a broadcast partner. The broadcaster is the cash cow, which does allow for the broadcaster to have a say.
“What does the broadcaster want? They obviously want more money. But there is an appetite for more teams on the board because it gives the sport a global reach.
“But it’s not increasing at the pace everyone wants it to be. Fourteen teams is a compromise.”
Scotland’s Tony Brian, who was on the ICC board until last December, said “obviously we would like to have more countries to make it a genuine World Cup”.
“But we recognize moving from 10 to 14 is a big step and we welcome it,” he told me. “It was a regular issue (when he was on the board) but there was no clear consensus over 14 or 16. It wasn’t addressed with that degree of focus at that time.”
The CEC is set to meet – over zoom – again on Thursday and then in a fortnight before the ICC board makes the final decision at its AGM in July.
It appears cricket’s showpiece event will belatedly expand but with fewer teams than many had hoped.