Yesterday, former Somerset chairman Andy Nash resigned his role on the ECB management board as a non-executive director representing the interests of the counties. In his resignation letter, Nash said that:
“The standards of Corporate Governance at the ECB are falling well short of acceptable and in all conscience I can’t allow myself to be associated with it.”
Those are pretty damning words about the ECB, which should make him something of a hero here at Being Outside Cricket. Certainly, his core argument that the ECB is full of biases and that it is poorly run is one that most of us would agree with. The question I have regarding Nash is whether someone who has been on the ECB’s management board for almost five years, and a county chairman before that for another nine years, has any right to distance themselves from the decisions that the ECB has made in that time.
Certainly I question whether the specific issue which appears to have triggered his resignation is worth such a gesture. In the letter he sent to Colin Graves, Nash wrote:
“The current fiasco over the actual / alleged / planned payments to TMGs [Test Match Grounds] is an exemplar. Whether intentional or not it clearly signals to many a move to promote 8 counties as the first among equals. As an ardent supporter of the 18 FCCs [first-class counties] this is not a direction I can live with.”
To put this into context, it leaked this week (quelle surprise) that the ECB planned to give counties with Test match grounds an extra £500,000 in every year which they didn’t host a Test match. Now I’m certainly not suggesting that there is absolutely nothing dodgy about this arrangement. It could well have been a backroom deal to reward the larger counties for supporting the ECB’s new T20 competition, when a similar payment actually tied to hosting one of the new teams would have almost certainly been blocked by the other ten counties.
But equally, I believe that these payments are a necessary evil. The ECB’s policy of forcing counties to ‘bid’ in order to host England games since 2007, guaranteeing to pay the ECB a minimum amount even if the revenue the county receives from the game isn’t enough to cover the payment, has meant that being a Test match ground has been a financial struggle for many counties. The ECB have also considered factors like the capacity of grounds and the quality of the facilities when assigning games, which has meant that grounds have had to invest (at great expense) in updating and enlarging their stands simply in order to maintain their allocation of international games.
Last year, the ECB decided to reduce the number of home Test matches per year from seven to six. With Lord’s hosting two games annually, this means that at least three of the eight counties with Test grounds will miss out on Tests every year. This could cause significant financial problems and end up with more counties getting the same treatment as Durham, which no one wants. Well except perhaps for Durham fans, who might be glad to know that they weren’t singled out for punishment before the ECB decided to address the underlying problems in their own systems.
However, even though I might agree with the principle of ensuring that England’s international grounds have a guaranteed income, there have to be questions about how the policy has been arranged. It appears to be the case that the ECB’s management board did not approve of the decision for the ECB to hand out £1.5m annually, nor were they even informed. This suggests a worrying (and yet entirely unsurprising) lack of oversight for the people in charge, and perhaps a worthy justification for a person of principle to resign as a member of the ECB’s board.
Which brings us to Andy Nash’s principles. In an interview with BBC Somerset today, he said:
“It suggests we’re moving towards favouring an elite band of eight teams rather than treating 18 fairly, and that is not something I could reconcile my conscience to.”
Which of course is wonderful. Most readers here seem to support there being eighteen teams in English cricket. Bravo to such a man of conscience, willing to resign rather than even considering any move towards a future where English cricket is divided between the haves and have-nots. A future where eight counties stand alone above the rest.
Except, of course, that this is a relatively new position for him. As Somerset’s chairman, Nash voted in favour of the ECB’s new T20 competition which only has eight teams. Why? Apparently he was in possession of a signed letter from the ECB’s chairman, Colin Graves, stating that Somerset were well placed to host one of the new sides. He was also on the ECB management board at the time, representing (in theory) all 18 major counties, where he voted for the ECB’s proposition.
I would argue that Andy Nash was perfectly willing to live with a two-tier county system when he thought that Somerset might be in the top tier. Now that this is clearly not going to happen, it seems a little late to cast himself as an ardent defender of the smaller county teams.
So, to summarise: I agree with the ECB’s payments to Test grounds, but not the way it’s been managed. I agree with Andy Nash’s purported sentiments about maintaining 18 teams in English cricket and his assertion that the ECB’s level of governance is extremely poor, but consider him wholly complicit in the ECB’s actions during his time in significant positions of influence.
But I certainly agree with this quote from Nash’s interview on BBC Somerset:
“If, as directors, you’re learning about such things through the media then there’s something very wrong.”
As always, comments are welcomed below.
This week, Donald Trump’s top economic adviser quit the White House due to his decision to engage in a trade war.
A few months ago it was his board for advising on business (or some such, I’ve had 3 glasses of wine and thus my field of fucks has something of the dust bowl to it).
While there is no real moral equivalence between Cheeto Mussolini and a bunch of dull white blokes mismanaging the game that our nation invented, there are some interesting parallels- namely, there is a time to register one’s disgust at another’s behaviour and that time in the case of the ECB was almost certainly February 2014.
Basically, quitting this week means you’ve been fine with:-
-England’s greatest run scorer being given the heave-ho on remarkably thin grounds
-“Outside cricket” (and by extension losing a PR war with Piers Morgan)
-Paul Downton forgetting the precise terms of the agreement with KP
-Being beaten by the Dutch at the 2014 World T20 (in a dead rubber)
-Day 4 of Headingley 2014
-Backing Cook as ODI captain long beyond all reason
-*That* World Cup campaign (probably the worst ever by a full member)
-Meekly surrendering all the test trophy England won in India in 2012
-The ECB’s utterly muddled handling of Stokes’ Bristol night out
-Even more meekly surrendering the Ashes, even though the most disruptive influence in England’s dressing room ever was removed
Some of these one may not be one’s fault directly. Several would likely have happened whatever one did (the India tour almost definitely would have been a horror show). Surely, though, one must have caused somebody sufficient discomfort to break ranks. Collective responsibility is a sometimes noble concept, but surely the breaking point must at the very least come a long time before “my county didn’t get the deal we thought we were promised” (and by the way- in future get something written and witnessed before you gamble the future on it).
For what it’s worth, I would have hoped that if not 2014 then certainly the World Cup match against New Zealand was the breaking point, but that’s just the romantic in me talking.
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Wonder what his reaction was to the treatment of Jack Leach – both the discovery of an illegal action that no-one had noticed and the preference of a Hampshire spinner with half the ability. Don’t recall seeing a Nash protest.
I’m more curious about whether he objected to Craig Overton’s slap on the wrist for racist abuse. As far as I’m aware, Overton got literally the least punishment possible for any offense. For racist abuse. Surely a principled man would protest this, even if it was one of his own players. Perhaps even have the team suspend him unilaterally for the rest of the season.
As it is, I wonder if Nash’s position in the ECB helped Overton get the least possible punishment, despite the player claiming he didn’t remember doing it and never apologising for it.
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One does not need to imagine that Andy Nash is any kind of principled, paragon of cricketing administration virtues in order to be able to use his resignation to shine a light on some of the nonsense the ECB is doing and has done.
I mean, John Major made a speech recently that I agreed with. So anything is possible.
Absolutely. One of the main takeaways from this is that appears to be the case that not only were these payments agreed in principle without either the management board (of which Nash is a member) or the full board (which includes all the county chairmen) being informed, but that George Dobell has reported that one county has already recieved a payment.
At my work, I can’t get money for teabags without a receipt, which is audited. Someone at the ECB (and it seems safe to assume it’s either Harrison or Graves) has signed a cheque for at least £500,000 with no apparent oversight whatsoever. That is stunning mismanagement. It honestly feels like the kind of thing that might be illegal.
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So effectively, Graves signing cheques to himself, with Tom giving him the nod and the wink. Well I never.
I wonder who signs off on Harrison’s ludicrous remuneration package… Do you think it might be.. Tom Harrison and Colin Graves? Or does Tom “step outside of the room”?
The saddest thing about this is that I am so overwhelmingly unsurprised I’m positively bored of the whole thing already. RBS, Barclays, BHS, Carrilion, the ECB. Corruption, fraud and deliberate mismanagement at the board level. Its the neverending story.
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It could well have been Yorkshire who got paid. They (along with Hampshire and Glamorgan) don’t have a Test in 2020, and you’d assume the payments would be for the first year of the new allocation of matches.
Would that be the Yorkshire that is one of the most indebted of all counties? The Yorkshire with debts largely owed to a Groves family trust? The Yorkshire that Groves was the chairman of before becoming ECB chairman? The Yorkshire that get a big financial boost from almost every ECB decision? If it is that Yorkshire, and Groves has been involved in agreeing or auctioning the payment, he is on very thin ice indeed. The potential conflict of interest is so huge that any other board member who sits quietly on their hands when it comes to light is going to be held equally responsible. This could be good enough reason for Nash (or any other sensible board member) to resign.
I actually have a lot of sympathy for Yorkshire (if not Graves) here. Yorkshire *should* get more money. A large part of their debts are due to ECB policy (particularly under Giles Clarke) forcing them to undergo expensive expandion and upgrades at Headingley, and I have no problem with the ECB giving them (and other counties in a similar situation) more money to get them back into financial stability.
Yorkshire also have both the largest population (assuming you split London evenly between the 2 teams) AND the largest area of any of the counties (unless you count all of Wales in Glamorgan’s area). In order to reach so many people over such a large region, they should get a larger portion of money from the ECB for outreach too.
And then there’s their development. They’ve developed two world-class players for the England team, who are both 3-format players. On top of that there’s Adil Rashid, who perhaps should be in all 3 teams. They should get more money from the ECB both as a reward for developing the current players and to help them develop the next generation of England players.
In short: Take all of Glamorgan’s money (they’re wasting it on Kolpaks and the like anyway) and give it to Yorkshire. English cricket will be better for it.