ECB chairman Colin Graves has sought to ease the concerns of anxious county executives by assuring them there will be no more compensation payments to Test-hosting counties until the issue has been discussed further.
In a chief executives’ meeting on Thursday, Graves insisted that plans for such payments had only been at draft stage and would have to have been ratified by the board before implementation. As a result of concerns raised by the counties – and most notably by the resignation from the board of Andy Nash – those plans will now be reviewed.
While the mood among the counties does appear to be somewhat appeased – there is no serious talk of a vote of no confidence – there are still some awkward questions to answer. At least one club would appear to have already received a payment from the ECB, while at least two more have budgeted for it.
Meanwhile, those counties concerned that the suggested compensation payments might signal a change in the long-term policy of the ECB were further alarmed by the news that the new County Partnership Agreements (the successor to Memorandums of Understanding) are likely to be bespoke to each club. While the aim of that is largely to reflect the differing needs of clubs in different parts of the country, it might also be interpreted as providing potential for a further divide between Test-hosting clubs and the rest. In the past, the ECB’s funds have been largely split on an equitable basis (with some room for performance-related bonus payments) among the counties.
It has also been revealed that, at some stage in the last couple of years, Sport England expressed some concern over Graves’ position of chairman of the ECB’s new nominations committee.
While the ECB has made much of the fact that its board will shortly be mostly made up of independent members, the nominations committee effectively has the opportunity to vet every prospective applicant. All other board members with affiliations to counties – the likes of Richard Thompson, the Surrey chairman, or Peter Wright, the Nottinghamshire Cricket Board chairman – are obliged to step down in May when they will be replaced by independent board members. Giles Clarke, the ECB president, is also expected to step down in May.
Furthermore, it has emerged that in March 2016 the ECB provided an assurance that Graves would abstain from “any vote or decision which could be deemed a conflict of duty as is his statutory duty”.
Although Graves, who was previously chairman of Yorkshire, did excuse himself from the room when the recent allocation of major matches was validated by the board, questions remain as to whether he did so on other occasions; notably when the decision to strip Durham of their Test status was approved. Graves no longer has any direct financial link to Yorkshire, though family trusts set up by him but run independently are owed 20m by the club.