The Economy Drive: Is the ECB channelling Yes Minister?

News broke today that the ECB are planning on cutting 62 jobs in the wake of the Covid shutdown. This is far from surprising, the scale of revenue loss for all sports forced to play behind closed doors has been catastrophic, and in cricket’s case exacerbated by coming into force just as the season was about to get under way. Televised Test matches and ODIs will have mitigated some of the financial distress, but as with businesses up and down the country and across the world, revenue falls equates to needing to cut costs, and staffing is invariably one of those to be impacted.

Yet the ECB statement raises as many questions as it answers, both in terms of where the reductions will come and how the cost cutting will take place. There is the confirmation that their plans including the Hundred will continue to go ahead by stating that they intend to deliver on their Inspiring Generations strategy, which is no surprise at all, but is finally in black and white. Secondly, they detail that their staffing budget will reduce by 20% at the same time as talking about the 62 positions. According to Statista the ECB employ 379 staff, making the 62 to go around 16% of the total. Yet it seems unlikely that the number of contracted players or umpires will be reduced, or not by any meaningful level, and thus the 62 is more likely to come from development, coaching, administration, support and commercial.

That would also fit precisely, exactly, perfectly with the 20% reduction in budget, which may or may not be a coincidence. It is to be hoped very much that it is a coincidence, because otherwise it would imply no wage cuts at all for those at the top of the organisation. It is certainly true that they took reductions in salary during lockdown, but according to George Dobell this is currently only the case until October. There are some issues to be raised if that is true, particularly highlighted in the ECB release which states “We have now shared with colleagues our Board-approved proposals, which will generate significant savings”. What the ECB will do in future is an open question, but if Dobell is correct in his reporting, it is to state that during these Board meetings to approve the positional cuts, the level of executive pay cannot have been discussed as an agenda item, except at most to confirm the current level of remuneration.

This is highly surprising, particularly given Harrison’s warning that 2021 could well be every bit as bad financially as 2020, indicating the potential for a further £100m loss. To not factor in executive pay beyond October is simply extraordinary, and very hard to comprehend were it to be an oversight in the press release.

It remains entirely possible this is not the case, and that the reporting is incorrect. But at the very least questions need to be asked about this, for from a cursory reading both of the press statement and the Cricinfo article, it appears that as things stand executive pay, including Tom Harrison on his £720,000 a year may well be being reinstated. During the lockdown period all ECB staff took pay cuts of between 10 and 25%, a further implication with this 20% reduction in headcount AND a 20% reduction in budget that pay for the others is returning to normal. Again, there’s the possibility that the budget cuts are on top of those already undertaken in salaries, but it would be extremely unusual not to mention that if it were the case.

Finally, if redundancy payments are included in this new budget, then that would be a different consideration, but if they are separated out elsewhere in the accounts, as severance payments very often are, then those staff under threat would have grounds for asking some fairly major questions. It is to be hoped that the journalists do just that.

7 thoughts on “The Economy Drive: Is the ECB channelling Yes Minister?

  1. dannycricket Sep 15, 2020 / 5:00 pm

    This is reminiscent of when I’m arguing with people who suggest that the ECB have achieved something which they have never themselves explictly claimed. An increase in participation, for example. If they had done something they believed to be worthy of praise, the ECB (or its executives) would never shut up about it. There is therefore a 0% chance that the executives are missing a penny from their contracted wages beyond October. After all, those golf memberships and holiday homes don’t pay for themselves!

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  2. Marek Sep 15, 2020 / 10:10 pm

    I’m not convinced that it’s a wise strategy–and it’s rarely a kind, staff-valuing one–to cut staffing costs in this way. Unless the staff are pretty much on minimum wage and wouldn’t be able to survive on a reduced salary, it’s better to me in this kind of situation to aim for all your existing staff on 80% of their wages than 80% of your staff on all their wages. It strikes me that you’ll get the work covered better that way too: the ECB’s strategy would be much more applicable to a business which was cutting production as a result of the crisis–which it isn’t.

    The only exception to this is if there are staff whose work has been identified as superfluous–in which case they should be made redundant as an efficiency strategy, not as part of a cost-cutting-in-response-to-a-crisis strategy.

    One part of this is that any business that needs to save a lot of money needs to start with the best-paid, for the simple reason that you save money fastest that way. The idea that the top-tier employees (and for that matter the England men’s team) are going to come out of this with their salaries untouched is not only distasteful, but seems to be poor business sense.

    But–yet again–the most ludicrous element of this is that an organisation which is losing tens of millions and is struggling to survive in its current format is still not prepared to ditch a tournament which its own figures show will incur a loss of £60m over the next five years and which their methodology shows is uncertain to ever make a profit.

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  3. dArthez Sep 17, 2020 / 6:17 am

    Still, whatever problems the ECB has it is still massively better than the CSA board. After just about the last sponsor deserted it, a board member had to tweet to cause offence there. But rest assured this board member is actually serving on its ethics committee. We can probably be certain that in the bizarro world of CSA, offending people and organisations with money is a good thing to do, when you are in desperate need for money.

    As for yesterday’s ODI: 6 games against Australia (including the T20Is) , 3 massive chokes. But highly entertaining nonetheless.

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      • dArthez Sep 19, 2020 / 6:38 am

        This is even beyond Kafkaesque. Being fired for not appealing a decision in your favour.

        It is wilful mismanagement at best. And I for one would applaud changes to law, to make board members + CxOs personally liable for such shenanigans. Sure, mistakes can happen, and expectations not met due to factors beyond one’s control. But this is hard to not see as willingly and eagerly running an organisation down the drain.

        If it was Kenya, the only thing missing would be one of the perpetrators of this being appointed as a chair or board members of a State Owned Enterprise. So I wonder where Nenzani, Moroe and a few others will end up.

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  4. waikatoguy Sep 18, 2020 / 9:06 pm

    I agree that exec salaries should be cut, and they along with the players salaries eventually will be by sheer necessity, but cutting the bureaucratic bloat in an organisation is always a good start when revenues are down. The ECB doesn’t need all the staff they have these days and getting rid of a few of them is inevitable. I would say not just cutting exec salaries needs to be done but probably a few executive positions could be gotten rid of as well.

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  5. dArthez Sep 25, 2020 / 12:35 pm

    Also, what is going on with Cricket Australia? Fixtures postponed due to COVID – that I can understand. But the shenanigans with regards to television rights? That I do not.

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