Euro 2020 Special
 

Afghanistan Cricket Facing Financial Crisis Following International Sanctions

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is facing a financial crisis, a direct consequence of the international sanctions imposed on the country following the Taliban’s return to political power there last August.

The sanctions have made it increasingly difficult to get money into the country and, even when that is managed, there are doubts as to where it subsequently ends up.

It means that whilst any outstanding amounts to players and coaching staff have been made, employees and other staff working in Afghanistan have only received up to 30% of their salaries.

The ACB has been working with the ICC to try and find a solution including the use of registered NGOs. However, no credible solution has yet been found, and the ICC has informed them that, with an approved regulatory mechanism, no money can be sent to the country.

 

ICC funding

When Afghanistan became a Full ICC Member in 2017, that entitled them to an increased distribution of funds from ICC revenues. Based on current projections, which have had to be adjusted downwards because of the impact of the Covid pandemic on the game’s finances, their adjusted share is around US $4.8 million a year.

The ACB last received a disbursement of US $2.5 million from the ICC in July of last year.

ICC payments to Full Members are usually made bi-annually – in January and July. To help deal with the problem, around 25 top players have been given temporary UAE residency visas. This allows the national team to travel around the world for major tournaments and other series.

For example, they have already qualified for the Super 12 stage of the World Cup, where they have been drawn in Group A alongside the hosts and defending champions Australia, England and New Zealand, as well as two yet to be determined opponents. Mohammad Nabi is expected to lead their side.

 

Other sources of revenue

Unfortunately for the ACB they have few other sources of revenue. Even in pre-Taliban times no international teams would actually travel to Afghanistan to play matches there because of the security situation, and they had to play home matches in neighbouring countries.

And whilst the country does have its own T20 competition, the Shpageeza, this is only broadcast in Afghanistan.

 

Domestic cricket continues

Domestic cricket has resumed in Afghanistan, with the fifth edition of the first-class Ahmad Shah Abdali tournament having recently commenced. That sees five teams compete in two venues, in Khost and Nangamar provinces. That will be followed in late November by a one day tournament, the Ghazi Amanullah Khan.

 

Some players have fled

Meanwhile some players have chosen to flee the country. Earlier this year several members if the under-19 team who had been playing for the country at the World Cup in the West Indies, as well as several officials who had been accompanying them, fled to London and applied for asylum in the UK rather than return to Afghanistan.

They were the first to seek asylum in a foreign country since the return of the Taliban, but they may not be the last.

 

Women’s cricket

The Afghan team was first formed in 2010 but disbanded just four years later, and has never played representative cricket in a competition like the Women’s Asia Cup. Even before the current regime regained power, there had been elements in Afghan society who had been opposed to their participation in the sport.

Four months after the ICC awarded permanent test and international ODI status to all Full Member women’s team came the takeover by the Taliban. Their official position is that women are not allowed to play sport of any kind, and a number of players chose to flee the country, whilst those already abroad at the time of the takeover chose permanent exile.

Whilst there have been indications that they will not be stopped from laying cricket, for the time being at least, all female activity has ceased.

In retaliation, Cricket Australia took a stand on the matter and cancelled a home test match with Afghanistan (thereby contributing to their financial woes). However, they do have two bilateral commitments against them inked into their diaries – an away T20I series in August 2024, and, two years after that, a tour on home soil consisting of one test and three T20Is.

 

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