“Arrogant”, “controlling” and hell-bent on “winning at all costs”.
That’s how Australian cricket’s governing body has been described in a damning new report examining the sport’s culture and running in the country.
Released on Monday, the wide-ranging review of Cricket Australia (CA) was commissioned in March after a ball-tampering scandal rocked the national team during its South Africa tour.
The report by The Ethics Centre, an independent non-profit group, said administrators should bear as much blame as former captain Steve Smith, former vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft, who were all suspended for conspiring to cheat by changing the condition of the ball by rubbing it with a piece of yellow sandpaper.
“Australian cricket has lost its balance and has stumbled badly,” the review said in its executive summary. “The reputation of the game of cricket, as played by men, has been tainted.
“The most common description of CA is as arrogant and controlling. The core complaint is that the organisation does not respect anyone other than its own.”
The 147-page report, based on interviews with players, sponsors and other stakeholders, said CA had consistently failed to live up to its values and principles and a culture of disrespect and bullying ran through the organisation.
The ball-tampering revelations plunged Australia’s team into crisis earlier this year.
Smith and Warner were suspended for 12 months for their role, while Bancroft – who was tasked to do the on-field tampering and was caught on camera – was handed a nine-month ban.
The review warned that the ball-tampering incident should not be seen as an aberration or the failure of a handful of players.
“At the heart of this report is that cheating by members of the Australian team was as much about institutional failures of Cricket Australia as it was personal failures of a few players,” said Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney.
The report also added that selection for the national team should be as much about a player’s character as his or her skills on the pitch.
David Peever, CA chairman, said some good would come from the 42 recommendations in the report.
“We didn’t put sufficient emphasis on the spirit of the game in our pursuit of wanting to be the very best we could on the field,” he said.
“That has been recognised and we’re using the report now as an opportunity to do better.”
Tim Paine, who was promoted to team captain after the scandal, said he is not surprised by the report’s findings.
“Potentially for a little bit, I think we got a little bit wrapped up in our own self-importance,” he told reporters on Monday.
“We’re the lucky ones playing for Australia. It’s not our cricket team, it’s Australia’s cricket team, and I think for a little while, we lost that.”