In the first of TWC.com’s new weekly interview feature Benj Moorehead interviews Lord Marland
Lord Jonathan Marland, a successful businessman and former treasurer of the Conservative party, is challenging Giles Clarke for the chairmanship of the ECB. Voting papers have been sent out to the 18 counties and the MCC. Results are expected shortly after the ballot closes on February 9. In 2004 Marland’s lobby group Sports Nexus published a damning report on the ECB called Lifting Cricket’s Fortunes.
Is running for ECB chairman something you’ve been working on for a long time?
No. I’ve been deeply frustrated for a while about the lack of performance of the team following. There is an unprecedented amount of money coming into the game, yet the management of the team seems set up to promote under-achievement. That rests on the shoulders of the ECB. In addition, if you survey the global scene of cricket, to a fan like myself, it’s apparent that we have lost our place at the top table of international cricket through various actions of the ECB. When I saw that the job for chairman was going unopposed I felt this was wholly wrong, and not in the best interests of cricket. The ECB has become a confrontational organisation and a private company. Transparency and information are very hard to come by. Decisions are made unilaterally.
Was this a decision you made relatively recently?
Yes, in the last month. The frustration developed over a period of time. The people who I go to watch cricket with are seething at the way cricket is run. My friends said to me, “c’mon, why don’t you have a go for it.” A number of my friends knew various county chairmen, who then came to me and said “we’d love you to be the candidate.”
How much did the Pietersen-Moores split influence your decision to run for chairman?
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Have you had much contact with the county boards over the years?
Would you say you are well connected in the cricket world?
I’ve travelled the world watching cricket. I know the guys who run the Barmy Army, a lot of former cricketers and captains, and commentators.
Do you go on a lot of overseas tours?
Yes. One of my favourite holidays is watching every ball of a Test match in a wonderful country overseas with my sons and a few mates. I’m off to the Caribbean. I’ve never seen them play in Pakistan, which I’d like to do. I think one of the areas to think about is how important it is that we take a team to Afghanistan. Afghani cricket is developing. It’s gaining momentum.
Did you grow up with cricket?
My mother played for Lancashire Ladies at cricket when she was at school. She was a very keen cricket follower. I played cricket at prep school and, subsequently, not to a very high standard. I still trot out occasionally and keep wicket, which at 52 gets a lot harder.
Did you have any idols who you’d try to emulate in the back garden?
I was brought up near Warwickshire so a lot of the their players like Dennis Amiss. There was a phenomenal team then, with people like Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran. I think one of the greatest sportsmen ever was Denis Compton.
Is your favourite form of cricket Test cricket?
Absolutely. Without being able to play Test cricket you can’t play any of the other formats.
Is it fair to describe you as a businessman?
I hope so. I’m involved in a variety of businesses. My whole approach to business is building teams and getting them to work together. Which is not what the ECB tends to do.
What was the response to the 2004 Sports Nexus report on the ECB?
It was totally ignored and treated with utter contempt by the ECB. I thought it showed the ECB in its true colours in refusing to even contemplate a dialogue on it. We rejoice in the fact that they have since taken on a lot of our ideas.
Do you think the counties have too much say in the running of English cricket?
They [the county boards] all have the game at heart. I generally believe that people who go into county administration have the best interests of the game at heart. So I don’t think that’s an issue. I’m disappointed that some counties have chosen not to hear my arguments – they have not contacted me or responded to the emails that I have sent them asking to meet with them, which I think is a terrible shame because it is important that we have this debate. The majority have [responded].
You’ve been a critic of sporting administrations in this country; are there any cricket bodies around the world that impress you?
I think that India have got their house in order. They’ve now got a world class cricket team. They’ve got an unrivalled amount of money coming into the game. There’s vibrancy in the cricket in their country. And you have to respect how they’ve set about that task.
If you win the election what would you do?
The first thing I’d do is thank those people who have been so helpful in getting me into this position. Then I would do a complete review of the way the ECB conducts itself and is managed; rebuild bridges with the Indian cricket board, the Australian board, and the South African board; see how I could get out of the Stanford [deal]; rebuild relationships with other media companies which are currently in tatters with a view to changing the Sky deal. I would also like to start establishing a capital regeneration fund to help counties establish a revenue-generative capital development.
You helped Boris Johnson with his campaign to become London mayor – have you been in contact with him recently?
I see him quite frequently. Boris and I had a wonderful time at the Test match at Lord’s last year. He’s great company and he’s doing a terrific job as mayor. He’s a great man. Very good for English politics. Very good for London.
Next week’s Tuesday chat is with newly-appointed Middlesex coach Angus Fraser, so put any questions you want asked below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line ‘Fraser’.