Thursday, February 26, 2009

MCC Members want an enquiry into the England and Wales Cricket Board

Some members of the Marylebone Cricket Club have called for an enquiry into the affairs of the ECB and hope to rustle up enough support amongst fellow members to call a Special General Meeting (SGM) of the Club.

The activist members are calling for an SGM “to approve the creation of an MCC Board of Enquiry to investigate the affairs of the English Cricket Board (ECB) and recommend a Cricket Constitution that is appropriate for the governing body of our national sport”

The allegations, which can be seen in full on the website accessible by visiting say that English cricket is under “…the unregulated control of a private company that is neither publicly accountable nor properly constituted” and that “recent events prove the ECB is guilty of bringing the game into disrepute”

Paddy’s Sports View has previously described the deteriorating relationship between the MCC and their tenants the England and Wales Cricket Board. Clearly a significant body of members want to use the MCC’s status as a guardian of the sport of cricket aggressively to challenge the ECB’s role, particularly in the light of the recent debacles of the England team’s captaincy and the Stanford affair. As this blog has also argued the ECB has no mechanisms whereby it is accountable to anyone in English cricket other than the Chairman of the eighteen First Class Counties along with the Secretary of the MCC. The MCC however as a private members club is owned by and accountable to its members. So whilst there is no forum, other than in the media, whereby the ECB can be held to account by ordinary cricket followers the MCC Committee is constitutionally required to call an SGM if 180 members support a request to do so.

In the event that the MCC Committee is required by sufficient members to call an SGM the meeting would not be in the public domain but it is likely that everything discussed at the meeting will become public knowledge. The MCC’s membership is a broad church and is by no means made up only of establishment figures! A robust debate of the ECB’s recent actions, constitution and performance can be expected with no holds barred. Whilst the ECB cannot be required to attend any such meeting some of the Board’s members are themselves alos members of the MCC and may choose to attend and to speak.

That a number of members of MCC are so aggrieved by the ineptitude and questionable governance of England cricket carried out by Giles Clarke, David Collier and others is admirable and their attempts to get 180 members in total to support their call for the membership fully to discuss the matter deserves support.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Letter to David Collier

Dear David

It seems that you feel that you have no reason to resign over the Stanford debacle and that Giles Clarke and the rest of the ECB board support you – well they would say that wouldn’t they?

A recent poll in The Guardian reported that 86% of respondents thought that Giles Clarke should resign. And even allowing for a bit of bias from the medium and statistical error that shows what the vast majority of the cricket loving public in England think as well. And as Clarke himself has made clear the monkey sits as much on your back as it does on his. After all you are the senior employee of the ECB and you had a clear accountability for the Stanford deal.

The overwhelming tenor of the comments in the media, on cricket websites and throughout the country is that this scandal is one too far for the ECB and that the responsibility lies fairly and squarely with Giles Clarke and with you. You might argue about the minutiae of the due diligence carried out on Stanford and whether it should have covered more that just his ability to pay. You may argue, as you have, that you "believe therefore that I could not have done more at that time and I don't think the board could have done more.” Few objective observers would concur with that self-promoting claptrap.

David the time has come to go. Your position is untenable. "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."


Paddy Briggs

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Scandalously the ECB is accountable to those they pay, not those who pay them

The series of disasters at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), culminating in the Stanford scandal, can at least in part be attributable to the fact that the ECB is accountable to those they pay, not those who pay them. It is a tenet of proper systems of governance that leaders are accountable to their paymasters or their electorates – whether it is a vote of shareholders or of politicians from time to time an election takes place which holds business and political leaders to account, nominally at least. At the ECB the reverse applies.

Only a couple of weeks ago the chairmen of the First Class counties, plus a representative from the MCC, re-appointed Giles Clarke as Chairman of the ECB. The evidence against Clarke, well articulated by his rival Lord Marland and others, was damning and had it been the cricket loving public in Britain who were making the choice he would have been out on his ear. But it wasn’t. It was the Chairmen of the counties and like turkeys they weren’t going to vote for Christmas. The Christmas they wanted to avoid was the proper and structural review of English domestic cricket that the ECB has been ducking for years. Such a root and branch review, which Jonathan Marland would certainly have instituted, would have properly investigated not just the way that the ECB is funded and the rather opaque corporate structure that it has, but also and most importantly how that money is spent. The likelihood that a proper and honest review would have recommended a substantial reduction in the number of First Class counties in England and Wales is high. And that is where the turkeys come in.

There can be little doubt that Giles Clarke will have given behind-the-scenes assurances to the counties that there futures are secure and that ECB funding will continue – at least so long as he remains Chairman. Such an overblown future for English cricket has been condemned by many objective observers who are not themselves reliant on ECB patronage. Even Lord MacLaurin, no enemy of the ECB, has called for the number of counties to be reduced from 18 to 12 and many other critics of the present system would go much further. William Buckland in his thoughtful and well argued book “Pommies” said that second tier English cricket (currently the County system) should have no more than five or six teams in it – in line with the systems that exist in most of the rest of the cricket world.

The counties fear of radical change combined with the patronage they have received from Giles Clarke has probably protected his position for the time being - even though his hands and those of his CEO David Collier are tainted by their association with Stanford. Unless these two fall on their swords - and the loss of a substantial salary (in Collier’s case) and munificent perks and privileges (in both cases) are such that they will no doubt fight to the end to avoid this honourable step. And the County chairmen? Will they really continue to contemplate their own navels and look away from the ugliness that hangs over the ECB at present? Don’t bet against it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Giles Clarke's position is unsustainable

The "temporary restraining order on charges of major fraud" in respect of Sir Allen Stanford shows beyond any reasonable doubt how ill-advised Giles Clarke and the rest of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were to get themselves involved with this dubious individual. But whilst these revelations are perhaps the most damning to the prospects of Clarke remaining at the helm of English cricket they are just one in a long line of errors of judgment and taste that has seen the ECB descend into a fetid and morally indefensible pit. The failure to permit live International cricket on terrestrial TV, the squandering of the ECB’s substantial income on an unsustainable and moribund county structure and the total inability of the ECB’s management to apply firm and sensitive leadership over the England captaincy are by no means the only examples which along with the Stanford fiasco have dragged England cricket into the mire. Clarke must go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

MCC members in anoraks - shock horror

"Cricket is a leisure activity and we have to decide whether we want a number of anoraks at matches or a large crowd who are keen to be entertained." Giles Clarke recently re-elected Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Mr Clarke was commentating on the MCC’s embryonic plans to hold floodlit Test matches at Lord’s Cricket Ground – something that will be technically feasible once Lord’s new retractable floodlights are operational and providing a solution is found to the problem of getting a Test match ball of a colour that can be picked out by fielders against a dark sky.

In these straightened times one would have thought that Clarke would have wanted to encourage all cricket lovers to come to England matches, anoraks or not. But as Richard Williams in “The Guardian” has pointed out there is a possibility that Clarke’s “Casual dismissal of anoraks could be interpreted to include most of those occupying the seats in the [Lord’s] pavilion”.

Put aside for a minute the grave sartorial implications of an MCC member being allowed to occupy a pavilion seat in an anorak and assume for a moment that Clarke did indeed mean those of us privileged to wear the egg and bacon tie and sit in splendour in the magnificent pavilion of the world’s greatest cricket ground. If Williams is right that Giles Clarke has us in his sights then the evidence to support that this is so is compelling. The MCC has a £200million redevelopment plan that will see the capacity of Lord’s increase substantially from around 30,000 to nearer 40,000 spectators - further widening the gap between what is already England’s largest cricket ground and the rest. This plan will be funded from MCC’s own resources and borrowings and for this to be viable some certainty about the future of international matches at the ground is required. But whilst the ECB, whose home is at Lord’s, is fully aware of the MCC’s plans their reaction has been less than encouraging.

Rather than supporting MCC’s plans to create a cricket ground that is not just full of history but actually can be full of a world class sized crowd the ECB looks to be going in the opposite direction. The ECB’s Managing Director of England Cricket Hugh Morris, explained the ECB’s thinking at the end of last year when he said that the ECB’s new “international staging agreements” will guarantee Lord's only two Tests from 2012-2016. "It's important for people in different parts of the country to see cricket” said Morris – this from the organisation that has cast live international cricket from terrestrial television for the foreseeable future by renewing their deal with Sky! It defies belief that the ECB could shun Lord’s in this way whilst giving longer term deals to the much smaller grounds at The Oval (23,500 capacity) and Headingley (planned capacity 20,000) until 2022 and 2019 respectively.

Back to the anoraks. The ECB’s contempt for Lord’s is no doubt built on a dislike of what Giles Clarke and his mercenary band see as the presence of a superior elite amongst its owners at MCC. Members do not pay to attend international or any other matches at the ground – other, that is, than by paying our annual subscriptions and none of the cash from this source finds its way into the ECB’s coffers. We also, in defiance of ICC and ECB rules, may take into the ground a modest amount of alcoholic drinks to accompany us through the long cricket day. Many MCC members feel strongly about the inadequacy they see in the ECB’s governance of cricket “The ECB is not properly accountable and no constitution exists that should reflect its role as a public body governing a national sport” as one outspoken MCC member puts it. There is no love lost between many in the MCC and their tenants at the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The Chairman of MCC, Charles Fry, remains hopeful that sanity will prevail and that he can persuade the ECB that they should give long term security to Lord’s for at least one Test match per year well into the 2020s and beyond. Fry has been a behind-the-scenes supporter of Giles Clarke in the recent contest for the ECB chairmanship in which Clarke secured a pyrrhic victory. Whilst many of us would have preferred, in the overall interests of English cricket, that Fry had joined those who wanted Clarke cast aside we must hope that his alliance with Clarke will at least secure for MCC the reward that Lord’s will be confirmed as an international venue for the long term.