On Monday 10th April Somerset County Cricket Club issued a statement on the ECB’s proposals for the future of the game with the Club highlighting their support for these proposals. A few days later I met Andy Nash in the Broome Suite in the Somerset Stand to discuss the proposals and Somerset’s standing, particularly on the highly contentious issue of city-based franchise Cricket. Here is what he said.
The Club Statement & Guy Lavender (part 1)
• Andy, thanks very much for the interview today at a busy time for all associated with the Club. Recent seasons have seen much progress with Somerset CCC so how would you summarise recent successes and Guy Lavender’s legacy?
We have been very lucky that, in my time here as Chairman, we have had two very gifted and talented CEO’s in firstly Richard Gould and now Guy Lavender, both of whom have gone onto much greater things. I have had a great working relationship with both of them and – look around you – you can see what they have been part of. But it’s a team game and the both of them have helped build a very strong culture within the Club and helped take the Club from – let’s face it – a fairly mediocre position back in the early 2000s to now being the longest-serving Club in the first tier of the County Championship. We have one of the best track records in the white ball game, with the exception being last year in the T20, and the ground has gone from being a very ordinary ground (albeit with a rich heritage) to one that is category B and ready for international Cricket.
• You mention Richard Gould and when he left it appeared to be a huge body blow but we recruited well then bringing in Guy. Have you started the process of replacing Guy? Do you have anyone in mind?
Yes I have seen a long list already this morning which is incredibly strong. I was here in 2004 or 2005 when we ran a recruitment process and we had a young man in a junior commercial position at Bristol City apply, which was Richard Gould of course, and also the Secretary of the Clevedon Bowls Club! No disrespect to the Clevedon Bowls Club, but, the Club has moved on a long way and we have already had applications from all around the world and we are going to have a strong shortlist from which to choose from.
• The game has never seen as much interest as it enjoys right now. Do you think that is due to the rise of the 20-over format or technology, as fans can easily be in touch with games even if they are at work or out of the country?
There are good bits and bad bits here. You do hear people lamenting the demise of traditional daily newspaper and their coverage of county Cricket, but that has nothing to do with the game that is the demise of newspapers in general, and that is to do with that thing called the silicon chip. I always tell people who do lament that there has never been a more varied, a more interesting or more professional coverage of which The Incider is a great example. These niche products appearing throughout Cricket with their own speciality – be that Club based or regionally based – covering all aspects of the game. And I think the ECB have done some brilliant stuff on the County Championship with some fabulous investment too. There are 75 million of these things in the UK at the moment (holds up mobile phone) and clearly the way people are following Cricket is changing.
• On Monday 10th April Somerset issued an official statement with some controversial elements which we will discuss separately. I am interested in the timing of this statement so close to the start of the season that closely follows the news Guy will leave. Is that purely coincidental as the cynic in me feels this was conveniently timed?
The timing was driven by the ECB, and their timing was driven by them working backwards. There is a window which the request for information for the tender process for the media rights needs to go out, and that has always governed the timetable for this consultation exercise. The ECB has to get its board in place for approving things properly and the counties need sufficient time to consult with their own members, stakeholders and of course their own general committees. So that’s how it was arrived at and all credit to the ECB in that we have had sufficient time and detail to be able to consult properly.
• In the statement you are quoted as saying: “After considerable discussion and consultation with Members, the General Committee have voted to unanimously support the new ECB proposals.” I have to say the “considerable discussion” part has been widely denied by members who have contacted me, so are you able to elaborate which “considerable” discussions took place and with whom?
Firstly the consultation has been as widespread as anything we have ever done. The coverage on the Club’s own site invited people to come in, phone in or even attend one of the two dedicated events on the future of T20, both of which were very well attended. In addition to that, of course, we have our regional committees, the Chairman of each area elects a Chairman to sit on the General Committee and the areas dominate this General Committee. And those areas exist, amongst other things, as a means of consultation with Members and Cricket fans. And they cover the entire south-west peninsula. I’m not sure what else we could have done as the Club did bend over backwards to garner those views and to give people every chance to contribute.
• To make a point, Matt Roller asks: “Can Andy outline why the wishes of members were at no point reflected by the board’s decisions?” Is that a fair question or was the feedback from these consultations very much that the Club had to move forward with the times?
It is not a binary issue, it is very complicated. Certainly both sessions held were very constructive and the level of questions regarded as excellent. They (the attendees) had really thought about it. What we didn’t have was people throwing their toys out of the pram and being hostile about what was being proposed. The Members were very measured and erudite in their questioning which was good. So there is no evidence that I have seen where the Membership has been ridden roughshod. And, as I said, the General Committee is composed principally of people to represent those members. People might think that Guy and I can get these people to vote the way we want them to vote but I can assure you that is not the case and there are some very strong and independent characters who sit on that committee and they made their views very clear.