Undemocratic takeover must be resisted

As you might imagine this has been an uncomfortable week for me as chairman of Leicestershire, particularly given the context of this season.

The team has failed to win a single Friends Provident t20 home game, last won a Clydesdale Bank 40 home game in April and has managed to win just two CB40 games all season, but it is me the chairman who is the focus of attention and not the captain or the coach.

The Leicestershire captain puts his name to a letter calling for the chairman to go yet admits publicly that he cannot substantiate the criticisms the letter contains and has no personal issues with the chairman.

The chief executive resigns in a fit of pique when under no threat of dismissal, embarks on a self-serving media campaign, alters and releases an email to him from the chairman to suit his purpose, all in breach of his contractual obligations, yet he continues to be treated with credibility by elements of the media, the players and by a group of members.

The ex-CEO, together with the senior coach, develops a mantra of ‘constant and continuous’ interference by the chairman yet the ex-CEO was reported in the Leicester Mercury at the time of his resignation in June as saying that he had been free to get on with the job for two years, adding that I had started to make my views known in recent weeks!

This is all bizarre by any known standards, particularly as my disappointment with our performance in these games (not the County Championship) is shared by many members and is the more acute because we know we have some outstanding young players.

In football or rugby the coach would have been fired months ago but to date we have applied a different criterion in judging his performance.

There are serious principles at stake here:

I. For all first-class counties, the cricket team is the biggest single item of expenditure and the team’s performance on the pitch in one-day cricket (both forms but mainly t20) is the major determinant of revenue.

If the team is under-performing as Leicestershire have done this season, with financial implications serious enough to threaten the financial stability of the club, then all directors and in particular the chairman have not just a duty to their members but a legal responsibility to act.

2. It is not for employees in the form of the coaches, captain and players to determine who chairs the club. It is for the board to decide on behalf of the members and it is for the members, who are the owners of the club, to decide who represents their interests on the board.

3. If the players are being manipulated to oust a strong chairman who stands in the way of an undemocratic takeover of the club then that has to be fiercely resisted.

I am not involved in cricket for egotistical reasons or for financial gain, and I have put literally hundreds of unpaid hours into Leicestershire since being thrust into the chairmanship seven years ago.

I do have a personal agenda because it frustrates me that we are still reliant on players developed elsewhere to field a credible England team, despite reforms a decade ago which devalued the domestic game and operated against the interest of the smaller counties.

I want to prove that even a small county such as Leicestershire can develop players capable of playing for England, providing there is a long-term commitment to player development and the right infrastructure in place to deliver that.

Stuart Broad was the first, and James Taylor and Nathan Buck will be next with a number of others in the pipeline.

That said, county cricket clubs have to be run as businesses in this day and age, which is why most have changed their constitutions to become limited liability companies.

The most innocent explanation of events at Grace Road this week is a resentment amongst our professional staff, players and coaches because I have applied normal business accountability to on-field performance.

Getting rid of me as chairman is not going to wish away the large revenue deficit that their performances have caused or the mess left behind by our former CEO.

I have been touched, meanwhile, by the personal messages of support I have received this week from respected figures in the game.

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