A Cricket Interregnum?
In many respects an interregnum exists at Lords – the ECB has assumed a responsibility for the government of cricket in the UK without any approved constitution and MCC has failed to ensure a settled future both for itself and for English cricket at Lords.
A chronology of events will assist in an understanding of the status quo:-
1982 (Nov) The Test and Counties Cricket Board (TCCB) seized control of the Governing Body of cricket – The Cricket Council. The TCCB became de facto the new governor and Sir George (Gubby)Allen expressed his displeasure and resigned as Chairman of the Cricket Council.
1983 (July) The Chairman TCCB – FG Mann – issued a requirement to all TMG’s to cede control of all functions where future Big Match Cricket was concerned.This included Lords. In August Mr Andrew Morritt QC (now Lord Justice Morritt) advised that commercial negotiations were necessary at Lords to be carried out at arms length to protect MCC membership.
1984 MCC Members accepted a Working Party Report on the future of Test Match Cricket at Lords and the need to negotiate with TCCB on a commercial basis for future use.
1984 Chairman TCCB FG Mann became President MCC.
1986 In September of this year the MCC President JGW Davies supported by the Committee ceded total control of all Big Matches to be staged by TCCB at Lords.
1986 The new President Colin Cowdrey took office in October and he made it clear that he supported the TCCB.He told the Secretary MCC would have to accept the Committee decision.No reference was ever made to the membership for their approval.
1987 In May the Report and Accounts were rejected for the first time in the Club’s history because they fai led to disclose the fact that Members’ rights had been ceded to the TCCB on Big Match days at Lords.
1987 In July the AGM was re-convened and the Committee introd uc ed a postal ballot.It refused the request of 220 signatories who requested an SGM and a request to circulate opposing views. The postal ballot approved the Committee plea to approve the unaltered Report and Accounts with a caveat that the Committee accepted a legal obligation to consult Members if “any step is proposed which would seriously impair their rights and privileges”. Thus was created the precedent of the Committee manipulating the use of postal voting.
1994 The Griifiths Working Party was appointed during the Presidency of Dennis Silk to look into the structure for the administration and governance of English Cricket. The WP reported 18 months later and recommended a British Cricket Board of Control. Their advice on a proper constitution being a pre-requisite for any new governing body was ignored and Dennis Silk was the Chairman of TCCB at the time
1996 The England and Wales Cricket Board came into being with no formal approval
1998 Staging Agreement Working Party set up following the impairment of Member rights over the World Cup arrangements signed by the MCC Secretary in November 1997. This Working Party was disbanded by the Committee without being allowed to report fully to the membership.
1999 The Annual Report and Accounts were rejected as a result of the World Cup arrangements being signed without Member approval
1999 Members’ Liaison Group (MLG) appointed by the President Tony Lewis to investigate Member rights and privileges. It was soon abandoned and Lords, unlike Surrey at the Oval, has never had a permanent MLG.
In the new Millennium there have been a number of major concerns being expressed by the membership at AGM’s concerning the loss of Terrestrial TV rights (Working Party appointed) the sale of Debentures (Working Party appointed) and most recently the ground development at Lords (Masterplan). Here again Members have expressed significant reservations over the risks involved and the manner in which the decision making process is being executed by the Committee on behalf of Members. A new Working Party has been appointed with the MCC Chief Executive as Chairman to review the situation concerning Member liabilities at Lords.
It can be seen from the list of events above there is a common theme – the very unsatisfactory relationship that exists between the ECB and MCC at Lords. This situation cannot be allowed to continue and is a malign influence on the future of our national game. It is a power struggle that has to be resolved. The MCC does not seek to dominate in any way but the ECB must understand that it does not own Lords and neither does it control the Laws of Cricket. The existing structure whereby the 18 First Class Counties and MCC are the shareholders in an unaccountable private company governing our national game must be brought to a rapid end and a British Cricket Constitution introduced.