The ECB could be moving towards a system featuring only eight fully-professional first-class teams, Andy Nash has warned.
Nash, who resigned from the ECB Board on Wednesday citing his concerns over the standard of corporate governance, has now warned that one of the key principles at the heart of the game in England and Wales – an equal share of revenues – is under threat.
Talking to BBC Somerset, Nash warned that ‘compensation’ payments planned for the Test-hosting grounds in years when they do not host Tests – understood to amount to 500,000 a year – illustrated “what the ECB’s direction of travel is”.
As a former chairman of Somerset, Nash was never personally convinced by the virtues of the new-team T20 competition – though he was persuaded to vote for its approval – on the grounds that it might exclude counties like his that will not (at least in the medium term) host matches. But the possibility that non-Test-hosting grounds might be further disadvantaged by a disparity in funding has increased his alarm.
“It suggests we’re moving towards favouring an elite band of eight teams rather than treating 18 fairly,” Nash said. “And that is not something I could reconcile my conscience to.
“There are 18 counties (plus the MCC) and historically they’ve always shared equally as funds come in from ECB from various sources. What we’ve read about is very different and strikes at the very heart of what the ECB’s direction of travel is.
“It is a very, very important issue that goes right to the heart of cricket in England and Wales. And that is the county system.”
The ECB claim the compensation payments were, at this stage, only a discussion topic for a working party and insist that the idea would have been put to the board before any payments were made. It appears, however, that at least one county has already received a payment and at least a couple of others have been led to expect them and budgeted accordingly.
“It is a very a substantial development,” Nash said. “And it’s clearly something that should have been discussed by the board before it got anywhere near the public domain.
“If, as directors, you’re learning about such things through the media then there’s something very wrong.
“I’m professional non-executive director. And it’s been a great privilege to serve the ECB for the last five years. Usually that role is one of support and guidance to executive colleagues. But occasionally challenge is very important, too.
“Our responsibilities are prescribed by law. To be able to discharge those responsibilities, an organisation must have in place effective corporate governance. The board is responsible for the organisation and, to perform that to a satisfactory level, it must be well appraised. It must have the right information.
“Ultimately corporate governance has to be at a level where you can discharge your fiduciary responsibilities. Regretfully I came to the conclusion that I was unable to do that.
“You don’t call out a national governing body lightly. But ultimately you have to be prepared to do that. As I woke this morning and the consequences of my decision sunk in, I’m happy I did the right thing. My moral compass is in a good place.”
Nash’s words will do nothing to dissuade those who fear the ECB has an unpublished agenda to reduce the number of first-class counties that it is trying to introduce through stealth.