As we’ve seen, horrendously, during the last couple of weeks, there are more important things in the world than ECB politics.
Come what may, though, the cricket world continues to revolve on its axis. And with each revolution comes another reminder of the caustic mundanities of everyday life.
Of those, few come as corrosive or toxic as the senior management of England’s national governing body. But just possibly, change may be afoot.
Rightly overshadowed by recent events, but interesting nonetheless, was Nick Hoult’s report in the Daily Telegraph on 28th November.
Giles Clarke is set to be replaced as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board by Yorkshire’s Colin Graves in January when a radical shake up of the governing body is expected to begin.
Telegraph Sport understands the changes will be discussed with the 18 county chairmen and the MCC at a two day strategic review meeting beginning on Jan 12.
Clarke is likely to be made president of the ECB in a deal with Graves that will allow him to continue to represent the board at the International Cricket Council. It would free Clarke to pursue his ambition of being chairman of the ICC while clearing the way for Graves, the chairman of Yorkshire, to take power at Lord’s and build a new culture along with the incoming chief executive, Tom Harrison, who officially starts his job in January.
Graves has the backing of the majority of the counties who are desperate for change after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the running of the ECB during a terrible year for the game in this country.
It has become clear in recent weeks that if it went to a vote between Clarke, who has been chairman of the ECB since 2008, and Graves, then the Yorkshireman would win. Clarke’s third term of office is due to end in March and if he were to lose an election he would also see his chances of becoming chairman of the ICC disappear.
Clarke’s powerbase has weakened as support of the counties has drifted away. There is huge dissatisfaction within the county game with how the ECB is run and the emphasis placed on the England team.
Sources have complained that turnover at the ECB has increased in recent years from £80-£140m but the amount filtering down to the counties, around £40m, has not changed.
There are also fears that counties are at risk of financial implosion as the cost of hosting matches and running clubs rises while attendances fall.
The relaunching of the Twenty20 Cup last year only had limited impact on attendances, particularly at the larger Test match grounds. The move to play matches on a Friday night was popular with some counties but at many grounds it had negligible impact. This comes at a time when counties see the huge popularity of Twenty20 tournaments in India, Australia and the West Indies.
Let’s assume for now that we can take Hoult’s copy at face value. True, none of this has been officially confirmed, but Hoult would not have run the story unless he were very confident of its provenance. What reason would his sources have to invent this tale?
My first reaction, and probably yours too, is joy and relief. In the words of Bob Dylan, we shall be released. Finally, after seven years of nefarious tyranny, this cancerous despot is being crowbarred away from the principal levers of power.
With the possible exception of Gubby Allen – the main player in the deselection of Basil D’Oliveira to appease South Africa’s apartheid regime – Clarke is the greatest scoundrel in the history of English cricket.
This is the man who, before acceding to the chairmanship, as ECB chair of marketing, drove through the transfer of cricket from terrestrial to subscription TV in 2004.
This is the man who since then has fought tooth and nail to keep cricket on Sky and away from the prying eyes of the mass public. To him, people watching the game on unlicensed websites constitutes the “biggest danger” to cricket.
This is the man who sold us down the river. During his tenure as chair, Clarke has systematically transformed English cricket into a sport exclusively for the monied elite, through a regime of ticket hyperinflation, and a extortionate bidding process for the hosting of international fixtures which has jeopardised cricket’s entire economy.
This is the man who turned England’s cricketers into money-making machines. By relentlessly pumping ever more fixtures into the schedule, swelling it as grotesquely as a foie gras goose’s liver, he’s not only compromised performance and results but damaged the players’ health and sanity – and all for no purpose than lining the ECB’s coffers.
This is the man whose board punished players for expressing interest in the IPL, but who posed on the Lord’s outfield with a crook and his box of cash.
This is the man who cut the deal for the Big Three. And this is the man whose sole response to Pietersen-gate was to say that “English supporters must move on”.
Very regrettably, Clarke won’t be going completely. This man has no shame. Despite effectively being sacked by the counties, his ego and vanity prevent him from leaving the stage with dignity. Instead, Clarke has demanded the creation of a new and prestigious role, just for him, so he can continue to strut the world stage and besmirch our international reputation. He will still represent us abroad.
Hurrah to the counties for finally seeing sense, although judging by what Hoult reports, their motives for unseating Clarke are entirely self-centred. Of course, we don’t know exactly what they’re thinking, and many county chairs may have been influenced by the harm he has done to cricket in general.
The health of the counties is vital for English cricket, and they’re entitled to fight their corner. But the dynamic behind Clarke’s downfall highlights the core structural problem with the governance of English cricket. The ECB chair is elected by the county bosses, so the board will always act in the interests of the counties, and no one else – certainly not the supporters.
We’ll talk about Colin Graves in more detail another time. Will he be better than Clarke? He can’t be worse.
PS: we are very touched and flattered by Dmitri’s piece about us yesterday. I hope we can sometimes live up to his very kind words. And at the risk of self-indulgence, if there’s any admiration going on, the feeling is entirely mutual.
Go get a room!!!!
“Clarke is likely to be made president of the ECB in a deal with Graves that will allow him to continue to represent the board at the International Cricket Council. It would free Clarke to pursue his ambition of being chairman of the ICC.”
Excuse me for keeping the champagne on ice.
Why the hell should he become President? What has he done to deserve a promotion? He’d still be in a position to do a lot of damage, especially on the ICC.
Sometimes I wonder if the England setup is actually involved in cricket or has devised a new sport called ‘kick the failure upstairs’.
According to Hoult, if an election is forced and Clarke loses, then he goes altogether.
How many county chairmen does it take to force an election? How can they be persuaded to do so?
Great article, though. The use of the word ‘scoundrel’ is particularly pleasing.
Of course, it may not pan out exactly as Hoult originally predicted. But if it does, the cosy arrangement is typical of the kind of squalid, behind-closed-doors deals which characterise English cricket.
An election for chair is due in the spring, so Clarke either has to stand, or not. According to Hoult’s report, he doesn’t want to risk losing, and knows the wind is blowing the wrong way, so he’ll step aside and allow Graves a coronation in return for the new role of President.
The counties should have vetoed this, and told Clarke he can stand for chair or nothing. What have they got to lose? This deal means Graves automatically gets in, with no risk of Clarke somehow scraping home, but it’s at the cost of transparency and open-ness.
If Nick Hoult is right, and Clarke doesn’t have the votes to keep the role for another term, I am not sure what Clarke’s got in his bag that allows him to negotiate this behind-the-scenes deal. These kind of back-room deals normally require some kind of consideration passing each way. What’s Clarke offering?
I would be desperately sad if Graves succeeded Clarke on the back of some shady, non-transparent deal thus immediately tainting the new regime with the kind of dark, secret, self-serving manoeuvring that defines the murky practices of the current scoundrels, as you so neatly describe them. For the ECB to re-engage with its fan base, it really needs to throw open its doors and let the fresh air blow away the grubby detritus. That means Graves coming to Lords with good intentions and clean hands.
“I am not sure what Clarke’s got in his bag that allows him to negotiate this behind-the-scenes deal.”
Nobody can deny that he is very good at making money, and he has made a mot of money for the ECB, Money talks.
The counties are the same bunch that have voted him in 3 times, so he obviously has a lot of allies in committee rooms up and down the country.
The financial statuses of many of the counties are dire. In 2013, 10 of the 18 counties did not make sufficient profit to cover interest payments. That is very worrying – like rolling up interest on your credit card. Warwickshire, Lancashire, Surrey, Yorkshire and Glamorgan all have a lot of debt and, I presume, are among the counties in financial deficit, presumably largely incurred by ground improvements.
Meanwhile the ECB appears to be stock-piling cash – it now has about £44m.
The ECB has net income of about £100m per annum. It has staff costs of of £22m! It pays £28m to the English cricket team! These are eye-watering numbers. It has contributed next to nothing to the counties’s debt problem – it is owed a measly! £10m compared with local authorities at £45m and financial institutions at £36m. I guess the councils are not going to pull the plug but sooner or later the financial institutions will if the interest is not serviced.
One way or another, the wealth of the ECB is not getting through to the counties. I imagine the accounts of the above-mentioned ones must look very sick.
I mmeant gross profits rahter than net income – basically broadcsting revenues less associated costs. So the English cricket team and the admin staff account for half of that profit! I imagine a county has a profit of about 2k per year…they will never get out of that debt position. The system is basically snafued.
Replying to Grenville, I cannot say that MCC plays any part in any wider funding but my guess is that their money and interest is all tied up in the Lords ground.
But as I see it, English cricket is not sustainable unless several local authorities admit that their loans are never going to be repaid.
Also the system whereby the ECB pays counties to stage matches and then the ECB asks counties to bid to host Test matches is fundamentally weird. Especially since the payments to the counties do not appear to match the counties’ costs.
Just looking at the ECB annual report throws me into pantomime territory. Oh yes it does!
Thank you for that, Diogenes. Shocking in black and white.
Thanks for that financial analysis. It makes grim reading. I’ve always been suspicious of making the counties bid against each other to hold test matches. It means they make less money, which for the overall county game is not good. It also has encouraged the bland pitches that last 5 days. The amount the England team take is eye opening.
Sooner or later, cricket in the UK will go the way of the football Premier League – the clubs will become trinkets to be owned by millionaires and run at their whim. Except each county needs to be like Hampshire and find someone prepared to sink a fortune into them. I don’t see a queue forming unless the Test Matches in Dubai start attracting the Sheiks and Emirs.
If I asked you to guess how many coaches are employed by the ECB, would you say 46!
Yes they employ 46 coaches and 29 players! Oh yes they do.
Well said, Tregaskis. Another murky deal is the last thing English cricket needs, and a rotten waste of a unique opportunity to start clearing up the dreadful mess of the last few years. The counties should really summon up the cohones to tell Clark his only option is to stand for re-election and accept the verdict of the ballot box.
You can’t judge the move to Friday nights after a single season, the entire point is that it provides stability and context over a period of several years. The idea that Friday night = T20 night will take a while to embed into minds of the general public.
Its also important to keep a few games on Sundays where it fits into the schedule, if I’m driving a minibus full of kids 50 odd miles, I’d rather not do it through the Friday night rush hour traffic.
My favourite moment of the season just gone (probably) was Giles Clarke, crumpled suit and face like thunder, having to present the ODI trophy to Angelo Mathews at Edgbaston. Perhaps he could retain an honorary role as presenter of trophies to victorious overseas captains? With the shambles he is leaving it could keep him quite busy.
If George Dobell is right and the announcement about Test venues until 2019 is coming this month that would give Clarke some powerful leverage over many of the counties.
“Perhaps he could retain an honorary role as presenter of trophies to victorious overseas captains? With the shambles he is leaving it could keep him quite busy”.
Clark is turning into the Sepp Blatter of English cricket. Endless gravy trains, and back room deals that keep him wallowing like a pig in shit.
If the counties have the votes they should remove him. No deals. No promises of future riches. No special new job titles. If they invent a job for him it smacks of creating a deity. Very dangerous.
We might have to roll out the guillotines.
Completely agree. It’s as if Clarke has invented his own House of Lords to elevate himself to.
Your guillotines would be pretty busy. Clarke. Flower. Downton. Cook. Moores. Saker. All the England backroom staff with their laptops. All of the English cricket journos. Probably a few in the Sky commentary team. Have I missed anyone??
Kev ” Have I missed anyone?”
Yes, you! :-)
Chronically foul article by the increasingly deluded Berry in the DT
Berry must be hitting the bottle hard to come up with that offensive and odious garbage.
I generally find his analysis rather good and he makes the kinds of points which don’t occur to many of his peers, such as this, about the importance of inner city grounds – and the relevance of that to England.
“The atmosphere was everything you want in a one-dayer except if you are of a puritan disposition. The ground was almost full of animated spectators who were not busy getting drunk but watched the game and responded accordingly.
“Utterly unlike Hambantota, the venue for the third one-dayer, stuck in the middle of nowhere. Or several international grounds in England. The big games should be played in big cities where people can walk up to the gate. The lesson of this age: you have to take cricket to people, you can’t expect them to go to cricket. Contemporary life offers too many other options”.
“What has he done to deserve a promotion”
Sounds like the Andy Flowers??
PS – Congrats on your Dmitri – well deserved!
Sorry Maxie, but reading that article by that pathetic excuse for a human being has really spoiled my Tuesday evening.
To be told that anyone who supports England “must move on!” (a la Tony Blair) over Kevin Pietersen and that he (KP) wasn’t all that successful recently – while the Special One, AC, is of course doing a superlative job for England – At the moment – Well, I won’t say what I really feel as profane language is doubtless not encouraged by yourselves.
This, from the man who refuses to take responsibility for running to the helicopter when “Sir” Allen Stanford came knocking and got so far up his fundament it took a monumental effort by the London Fire Brigade to have him removed.
Well, he can move on, but without my £65 for a Ticket at the Test in Cardiff this July – Thanks, Maxie, you have performed a public service in persuading me finally not to get any further into debt than I already am!
Maybe I got my wires across about the Scyld Berry piece – what was it which stuck in your craw?
Hi there Maxie
Sorry to sound so vitrolic last night – Bad day at Work and afraid that article pushed all the wrong buttons for me I’m afraid – Still don’t care for the dismissive tone of what he doubtless thinks of us (if he could get away with using “Plebs” then I’m sure he could, if Andrew Mitchell couldn’t)!
Might change my mind about the Test Match in Cardiff though in time – when I’ve mellowed hopefully – but still spitting feathers about it at the moment though!
One thing I want to know is why the MCC has any role in the running of the ECB. (actually, I don’t want to know. I want that self selecting, self appointed, self serving bunch of self bred ingrates out on their ear. They can have their private members club if I can have my game back).
Having said that, I would in fact be interested in both jusrificastions anmd historical explanations.
I think the historical explanation is that the MCC used to run cricket until comparatively recently, and the justification is the same thing.
Heritage, and all that. There’s that weird thing that the MCC still holds the copyright to the Laws of Cricket because it first published them in the 18th century.
It also seems to have lots and lots of money, for instance it funds the cricket centres of excellence at various universities.
I completely agree, Grenville. It is absolutely ridiculous that the MCC have any say whatsoever in the running of English cricket, but they do – and quite a considerable one.
I wrote this in 2012 and I stand by pretty much every word of it now.
Guess who TMS are interviewing over lunch? The president and chief exec of…the MCC!
No doubt hard questions were asked … ?
No … ?
Interesting reading the texts to the BBC liveblog:
About the only thing there is general agreement on is that pretty well no one thinks Cook should go to the World Cup.
Also, quite a lot of support for Rashid (including from Simon Hughes) – with which I concur.
“Oh the irony when Alastair Cook says ‘This is the best XI for this game’ and he’s in the team.”
The ECB is based at Lords and one board member is appointed by the MCC. Apart from being the custodian of the Laws of the game, what other connections are there between MCC and the ECB?
Do you really stand by this article? Really? I am shocked. The factual errors in it and the sheer degree of anti-factual prejudice make this the worst thing I have nseen on this site. Were you selling Socialist Worker papers when you wrote this heap of shite? As more than one person told you…this is shite
I have finally got round to reading these replies and Maxie’s article. Thank you all. Diogenes, if you have time could you point out the factual errors. The article confirmed my sense of the situation, but my sensiblities are probably informed by my anarcho-syndicalist leanings, and Lord’s terrible facillities for disabled patrons. Something sticks in my craw about the insistence that gentlemen wear tailored shorts in the pavilion whilst failing to provide any cover if your seat is a wheelchair (and, until recently charging double if you needed an assistant).
What are the factual errors? What did I say which is incorrect? Honestly, I’m happy to address and discuss anything you think is wrong.
The MCC do many good things, and they can run their affairs as they wish. My argument is simply that they should have no role in running English or world cricket.
Maxie, I thought your piece on the MCC was excellent. I was not aware of this site then so have only just read it. I see no problem with your points of view. It obviously got a few people hot under the collar. But I don’t now why. Your essential point still remains. Why does this private club have such a big say in running English cricket? Nobody gave a satisfactory answer except to say they always had done. Which was rather your point! The funniest response was from THA (whoever he was)
“Your sneering about public school types, so often seen in articles about Cook (who proved you both very wrong, very often) has again blinded you to the truth. ” I wonder if he would like a mulligan on that uppity clap trap!
It’s worth remembering that When the MCC applied for lottery funding (which was a disgrace in my opinion) they were turned down because they were a male only club. This was the real reason they suddenly became so enlightened and allowed woman into the club. So they could get their hands on all that lottery loot. (So much for principle and tradition.) They quickly jettisoned all that when their was cold hard cash on offer.
One can understand their supporters indignation of losing their power to the ICC. Those jumped up Johnny Foreigner types running the game, particularly the power of India (a former out post of the British Empire)’but their arguments against the ICC sound very much like yours on the MCC. Outsiders complaining about insiders. As always it depends which side of the fence you are on, and whether you have the power. Good stuff.
Hmm…if the odious one departs to jolly up to his “nauseating” new best mate at the ICC, I wonder what would become of the silent (because I can’t ge out me bloody big foot me mouth) assassin Downton??
that should have read (because I can’t get me bloody big foot out me mouth)…the dog was badgering me for her breakfast! :-/
Sorry I’m late to this particular party but the wine – don’t like champers – still has its cork in the bottle. Until Clarke is gone from cricket altogether – domestic and international – England Cricket will continue to go downhill. This monstrous miscreant has wreaked such havoc on the beloved game, it may well take a very long time for it to recover. Clarke going is going to be first nail but all these damn ECB idiots need to be shown the door. I do hope that Colin Graves does not make any deals at all but just brings with him a damn great floor brush to wash the whole bloody lot out of cricket and never to allow them to darken the doors again. We need to have real cricketing people at the helm. Just hope Mr Graves does the business. When I see that then my very expensive bottle of New Zealand Pinot noir will be opened!!!
Oh and it is so good to see that rotten picture of Clarke put up again. Says it all really.
[…] in November we looked at a fascinating report by Nick Hoult, in the Telegraph, about Clarke’s likely future. The counties – the […]