Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, was forced to abandon plans to present the County Championship trophy after a tense meeting with the chairmen of the first-class counties.
Graves was hoping to present Surrey with the trophy after the meeting at The Oval. Instead Jim Wood, a non-executive director on the ECB board, was charged with making the presentation as the meeting over-ran due to significant disagreements between those present.
Some other chairmen, notably Surrey’s Richard Thompson, did make the ceremony, however, with another suggesting Graves was either too angry or too nervous about the reception he may receive from county supporters to appear at the event.
The key disagreement at the meeting centred on the spiralling costs of the ECB’s new competition, The Hundred. With those projected costs understood to have more than trebled from £13m to over £40m, the projected profits for the counties have dropped sharply.
So heated was the debate that, at one stage, it is alleged a visibly upset Graves told the chairmen that, if they were not happy with the situation, there were mechanisms open to them within the constitution of the ECB to change things. This has been interpreted by some present as an offer to resign, though others have dismissed that as overstating things.
If Graves did have any hope of staying on for another term as chairman, however, it has now almost certainly been dashed. It is also likely there will be a review into the costs associated with setting-up The Hundred.
Other takeaways from the meeting saw apparent agreement on a reorganisation of the County Championship so that, from 2020, the top division will feature ten sides and the bottom eight. That decision is still subject to a vote, but it seems there is little resistance towards it. As a consequence, three teams will be promoted from Division Two at the end of 2019 and only one relegated from Division One.
A request to expand the T20 Blast from 14 group games per team to 16 went nowhere. While it is, in theory, still an option, it looks unlikely to happen at this stage.
Meanwhile, the chairmen were shown the key points of the Good Governance Institute (GGI) report commissioned after the controversy into payments made to Glamorgan in return for their agreement not to bid to host Test matches. While the report found an “overuse of informal process”, a “lack of effective stakeholder engagement process” and “the historic absence of appropriate levels of trusts… between board members”, it concluded there had been “no issues of breach of formal policy or procedure which require action against individuals”.
And, while it concluded there were “a number of important issues which require reflection and action by the new board of the ECB”, it also found “no evidence of failure to fulfil fiduciary requirements, no decisions which reflect conflicts of interest or failure to provide appropriate levels of leadership”.