Guy Lavender’s legacy

If you look through the annals’ of Somerset County Cricket Club, as I so often do, then you cannot fail to note one striking consistency that has plagued the county’s history since it’s conception way back in 1875 when it was decided after a game at Sidmouth that Somerset should have their own county club. Money. Or, to elaborate, a complete lack of it.

There are plenty of books that tell the tales of this provincial club battling long and very hard battles to remain financially viable and, at times, to even survive, with the county’s existence in grave danger on several occasions. This was a club that relied far too heavily throughout the formative years on using amateur players with only a modest investment in professional’s to bolster the ranks. Not through choice or strategy, but through need.

Add to that the fact that Somerset were for long periods of their history, and up until fairly recent times, neither successful nor fashionable. The so-called ‘glory years’ of the late 70s and early 80s a period of some distraction when the club’s profile and on-field performances were the envy of the perceived more fashionable county sides. But even these years of winning trophies and full houses thirty years or so ago came to a shuddering close as we headed into the 90s.

Folklore and history will instead rightfully talk about great characters who wore the wyvern – some amazing victories and some stunning defeats – but through the decades, before wars and after wars, Somerset were effectively – and to put it bluntly – always skint!

Happily, this has changed in recent years.

Fans tend not to care unduly about their team’s financial performance, and why should they? As long as the Membership and admission fees are deemed reasonable, likewise the price of food and drink in the ground and the team are competing on the field then very little else matters. But take it from this Football fan that everything is dictated to by financial management. One minute one can be perched happily in the higher echelons of the Bernabeu watching your team strut out to face Real Madrid in the Champions League only to be sat at Rotherham on a freezing cold Monday night three years later ready for a league game in the English second tier (which we lost). This down to financial mismanagement.

Whether we like to admit it or not, our beloved clubs are businesses and need a strong business model to compete. And Somerset has a strong business model.

News that Guy Lavender would be leaving his post as Chief Executive Officer at the end of the 2017 season was disappointing, but not necessarily a surprise to me. Guy has done a sterling job leading Somerset after replacing Richard Gould back in 2011. And good people will always attract attention. His pending departure to become the next Chief Executive & Secretary of the MCC is an excellent move for him and highlights how revered Somerset County Cricket Club are these days.

To produce profits year after year is in itself an amazing achievement for our county, and what makes it more impressive is that Guy has led such a small team in comparison to other county sides.

I cannot deny that I rate Guy Lavender highly. His legacy includes much improvement to the County Ground (one now fit to host international cricket), investment in some world class players who have played for Somerset and an ever stronger Academy that continues to produce quality young players from the region. His last few months in charge are unlikely to be boring with ECB reforms and the impending arrival of city based franchise cricket looming large so he will have plenty on his plate.

From a personal point of view I have been fortunate enough to meet and talk with Guy on a number of occasions and always found him to be polite and professional, with time for everyone and no airs and graces. It is a demanding job running Somerset, managing supporter expectations to a budget. As former CEO Peter Anderson once told me: “I don’t have a boss, I have about five thousand of the sods!” And we, the supporters, can be very demanding.

Chairman Andy Nash summed it up when he told the official website: “Guy has been a huge success as our CEO and leaves the club a rich legacy of ODI and IT20 status, vastly improved facilities, a strong united culture and a business model which has become an acknowledged financial powerhouse and exemplar in the game. At a personal level he’s been a loyal and supportive colleague and friend. While we shall be extremely sorry to see him go there’s nothing greater we can do for our people than see them develop and progress into bigger roles. The CEO & Secretary of MCC is one of the most prestigious and influential roles in global cricket and it is a considerable honour for Somerset County Cricket Club to see its CEO assume this position. On behalf of everyone at Somerset County Cricket Club I extend my immense gratitude for all that Guy has done for us and extend to him our warmest wishes for his success in his new role.”

So although disappointing I am sure Somerset will find a suitable replacement for Guy and the show will most definitely go on. I wish him well. The new season starts in a few days’ time with Somerset well placed to challenge for honours. To win a trophy would be the perfect complement to Guy Lavender’s legacy at Somerset.