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ICC chief wants upgrading referees and umpires


MELBOURNE, Australia, March 14 (AFP) - Cricket's most senior administrator has called for the old boys' network of appointing match referees to be abolished and the installation of a new, full-time, professional umpires panel.

International Cricket Council (ICC) president Malcolm Gray made an attack on all of cricket's on-field personnel Wednesday, describing the behaviour of some players as "inexcusable" and calling for greater control to be exerted over them.

The senior Australian administrator's criticism of international umpires follows a series of controversial decisions in the current Calcutta Test match between Australia and India and during the Sri Lanka-England series.

It also comes after the contested decision of West Indian match referee Cammie Smith concerning the behaviour of Australian opener Michael Slater in the first Test against India.

"Next to the corruption issue, the whole of the umpiring and refereeing is our biggest problem," Gray told a gathering here Wednesday. "We need to do something about it."

Gray said umpiring and refereeing was the one area of cricket that had not progressed to a fully professional level.

A recent ICC board meeting agreed to consider the implementation of a full-time panel of around eight career umpires who, Gray said, would be younger, fitter and better.

The main panel would be supported by about 25 emerging umpires.

But the question of referees required equally urgent consideration, he said.

"We've got to get away from referees being just the old boy network - and a lot of them are getting very old," he said.

With the Slater incident in mind, Gray said cricketers themselves were doing the game an enormous amount of harm.

He said football and tennis had succeeded to a great extent in regulating player behaviour.

"As society's standards have slipped ... cricket has not done anything about (on-field behaviour) compared with the other sports," he said.

"We have let their behavioural standards slip. It comes back to our umpiring and refereeing issue.

"I think we've got to become more pro-active in stamping out some of the behaviour that goes on because, quite frankly, it is inexcusable."

Smith chose to warn Slater after he clashed with batsman Rahul Dravid and an umpire when he had a catch turned downed in the first Test in Mumbai.

Smith later fined Slater and gave him a suspended one-match ban when the Australian opener broke ICC guidelines and defended himself on a Sydney radio station.

While he pulled no punches regarding players and match officials, Gray didn't spare his own organisation.

He said the ICC, international cricket's governing body, had moved to revamp its operation and would appoint a new chief executive within the next month.

"The ICC in many ways has been a laughing stock, that has, according to many people, been a body that has no teeth," he said.

"It is ineffective and slow."







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