Watmore rallies counties
➤ Watmore wants to build on tradition in domestic cricket ➤ ‘Inclusive’ target to include improvement of board diversity
England’s counties have been reassured that they have a future as full-time clubs despite the financial crisis caused by Covid-19. The message came from Ian Watmore as he started his tenure as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board and also voiced his full support for the Hundred and multiple forms of cricket.
Ian Watmore started his tenure as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board by reassuring the counties they have a future as fulltime clubs despite the ramifications of £100million losses this summer.
Colin Graves, Watmore’s predecessor, told The Daily Telegraph in his final newspaper interview as chairman that he expected some counties to go part-time, playing only white-ball cricket professionally. But Watmore struck a more conciliatory tone on his first day in the job, reaching out to the counties while also confirming his commitment to the Hundred.
Watmore also admitted the ECB had to improve the diversity of its board after Lord Patel, the deputy chairman, stood down yesterday. The remaining members and new appointments by Watmore, which include Sir Andrew Strauss in a non-voting role, are all white.
He also confirmed his desire to arrange a tour of Pakistan when safety concerns had been allayed, following Pakistan’s own visit to England this summer amid the turmoil of the Covid pandemic. “With Pakistan back hosting cricket we should definitely go and tour there if it’s at all safe to do so,” he said.
Watmore says his style of leadership will be “inclusive, consultative and collaborative”, intentions that will be welcomed by some counties and their members, who believed that under Graves the ECB was interested only in its own pet project, the Hundred, to the detriment of traditional formats of the game.
“My view is there’s a place for all counties. There’s a long history of tradition we need to build upon and retain,” Watmore said. “Counties should be aspiring to playing all forms of cricket, developing England players of the future; potentially, each of them having a nuanced, localised strategy.
“Some will be the big Test match providers, others might be the regional hub for talent. Each county can play its part in the future of English cricket, in addition to playing in the core tournaments.
“If the economics and performance standards don’t allow that over time, or individual counties decide they want to do something different, that’s a conversation, but it’s not where I’m coming from.”
Under Graves, some of the counties felt threatened by the Hundred, and Watmore is keen to improve relations. His first board meeting will be held next week at Edgbaston, not Lord’s, and he has invited the chairmen of Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Watmore is committed to the ECB’s Inspiring Generations strategy, which aims to increase grassroots participation across Asian and ethnic communities and among women and girls, using the £1.1 billion broadcast deal to fund it.
But he told ECB staff in a conference call yesterday there would be cuts at the governing body and beyond. Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, is leading a review into spending and potential cuts. Graves wanted to move the ECB from its expensive offices at Lord’s and slim down the Loughborough academy, and Watmore has hinted at more working outside London.
“I am expecting there will be reductions in the size of the ECB staff. It is inevitable, I think, given the financial position we are in,” he said.
Watmore believes that the Hundred remains an opportunity to reach a new audience, with eight matches to be shown on the BBC, and that it will be particularly important for raising the profile of women’s cricket.
‘With Pakistan back hosting cricket, we should definitely tour there if it is safe to’
The ECB was recently accused of turning its back on the black community with Lonsdale Skinner, chairman of the African Caribbean Cricket Association, saying he felt his community had been “deliberately excluded” by the board. The ECB said it would “urgently address” the lack of black cricketers. Watmore will look to increase diversity on the board and among those making leadership decisions.
Watmore published a blog on the ECB website yesterday admitting the Black Lives Matter movement had shone a “very uncomfortable” light on “some structural and cultural weaknesses, as well as repugnant behaviours from some within the game and society at large”, after a string of black cricketers shared stories of racism in the sport.
“It’s quite clear we do not have the diversity of board we need,” he said. “We are very strong with our gender balance but it could still be better, but our ethnicity and other attributes are not right. If a governing body is not representative of the society it is trying to serve, it is not going to be an effective leader. That is something we need to develop.”
Review: Ian Watmore expects there to be staff cuts at the ECB