Archive for the ‘leicestershire’ Category

Peace breaks out at Grace Road, everyone calms the fuck down

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Chief executive David Smith resigned because of chairman Neil Davidson’s meddling. Davidson managed to piss everyone off including the players, ground staff and yours truly. Two petitions were drawn up by members demanding Davidson’s removal, and Tim Boon said “time to blow this fucked up Popsicle stand” and buggered off to take up the England U-19 coaching job, and who could blame him.

Now peace, of a sort, has broken out at Grace Road.

Well, it’s more of a compromise, really.

Neil Davidson has finally emerged from his Führerbunker and resigned. The special general meeting that was timetabled for November 17th has been cancelled after a meeting between the board of directors and the members who drew up the petitions.

The AGM scheduled for March has now been brought forward to February, during which the current board of directors will resign and stand for re-election.

In the meantime, Paul Haywood has taken on the role of chairman, and Mike Siddall is chief executive. Captain Matthew Hoggard has hailed these appointments as a positive step forward.

The immediate effect of this is that a ceasefire has been reached and those who stood to be most affected by this – the players – are free to concentrate on their off-season training.

Thankfully, the team seems to been brought together and made stronger as a result of this summer’s conflict. The opposite would have been utterly disastrous for the club, and let’s just say if, god forbid, that had come to pass, it would have been a case of pitchforks and flaming torches rather than a couple of petitions.

But there are still unresolved issues. For a start, it was discovered the members do not have the power to remove the board of directors at a special general meeting, even if 75 per cent of the votes cast in the ballot call for it.

Secondly, one of the other resolutions outlined in the petition was to hear from David Smith as to why he resigned.

David Smith is still a member of Leicestershire County Cricket Club. Will we get a chance to hear his side of all that’s happened at February’s AGM? It would seem that once again, the board seem to have bought themselves some time, and we are still none the wiser.

Also, our interim chairman, Paul Haywood, when he handed in his resignation (not accepted) at a meeting at which the rest of the board backed Davidson, gave as the reason for his resignation “issues [that] had come to the board’s knowledge that we were previously unaware of that meant I could no longer support him.”

He went on to say: “Due to confidentiality, I cannot disclose these reasons. I had spoken about my views to the chairman and the board but, at this meeting, I received no support from the other board members.”

As a member, it would be nice to know precisely what these reasons were.

Pretty much a large part of Leicestershire’s off-field summer has been comprised of bitching, backbiting, slanging matches, smokescreens, and now compromise.

And we still don’t have the full picture.

Will all become clear come February? I doubt it. Will anything change? That remains to be seen.

Only god save us from another summer like the one just gone – off the field at least.

Ding dong, the witch is dead

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Neil Davidson has announced his resignation as chairman of the board of Leicestershire CCC.

Instead of going quietly, and with some measure of dignity, he has chosen to opt for a scorched earth policy and laid the blame for the club’s current crisis at the feet of captain Matthew Hoggard.

Back in August, Hoggard and senior coach Tim Boon had sent letters to the board requesting Davidson’s removal, citing his interference in team selection. Coaching staff, the players, and the ground staff were known to be deeply unhappy. Tim Boon has subsequently left to become England U-19 coach. That was a pretty horrible week at Grace Road if you were a Leicestershire supporter.

Since then there has been stubbornness, recriminations, and a second petition delivered to the club’s offices after the first was dismissed on technicalities. At the time, Davidson disingenuously fired broadsides at Hoggard and Boon for involving themselves in board matters when, he said,  it was up to the membership if changes were to be made – this while all the while seeming to do his level best to avoid a frank and open discussion at which members would be privy to both sides of a conflict that has been raging since chief executive David Smith resigned in June.

Davidson, in his statement yesterday, cited as the reason for his resignation the fact that he had asked Hoggard to remove his signature from the letters and retract his criticisms, and having given him 14 days to do so, stated that the captain’s refusal to grovel had left the chairman in a position that was “untenable”.

He continued, “I find his actions difficult to understand and I hope Matthew realises his irresponsible behaviour has led to the chaos which has engulfed the club ever since.

“Indeed, had he not put his name to the letters in the first place – which if he had thought it through properly, I believe he would not have done – then the current crisis at the club could have been avoided.”


About a week ago I received a letter from the club secretary announcing a Special General Meeting on November 17th. The letter states: “You may have seen stories in the press regarding the business  to be transacted at the Members meeting… the resolutions and any other business to be conducted at the Special General Meeting will be notified to you in good time.”

One of the resolutions set out in the petition – which I and many other members signed during that eventful week back in August – was the proposal for a vote of no confidence in the board.  This is the same board which backed Davidson and which then moved very quickly yesterday to distance itself from him and to give Matthew Hoggard its full backing and support. Considering the board has been locked in legal discussions regarding changing the resolutions laid out in the petition, and given the events of yesterday, the question of whether this meeting will now even go ahead remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

As for our departed chairman and his extraordinary statement, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “It is better to remain silent and be thought an inflexible megalomaniac appearing to be desperate to hold on to power than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

The club is not in the rosiest of health financially. Membership and attendance are issues that need looking at. But one cannot help wishing this whole imbroglio had been handled very differently, and if a finger is to be pointed, it must be pointed at Davidson for dragging the club into a crisis it must now dust itself down from.

Anyone who has been following this saga knows that the club also has an extraordinary wealth of young talent who could go on to be future representatives of their country. The continued development of this talent is what the club must focus on now.

Onward, and upward.

Less sackcloth, more Ashes

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Well, thank Christ that’s over. Watching England’s joyous, enthusiastic celebrations at the Rose Bowl at the end of the current ODI series against Pakistan last night felt like the breaking of a fever, or the lancing of a boil – the relief is bliss, but you would rather the disease didn’t come back any time soon.

Don’t get me wrong, the cricket itself was fascinating and the fact it went down to the last game made it more so, but much of the fascination was from a morbid, rubber-necking car-crash perspective, given the background of spot-fixing, scandal and Ijaz Butt. I’m not going to go into all that again because I am really just glad it is over, as I’m sure you all are, as I’m sure the England team is. The only thing left to say is that I would love to welcome back a Pakistan team, bursting as it is with talent, but not until all corruption has been cleansed from its ranks. Signs are this is not likely to happen soon, but we live in hope. I am not one of those who advocate the scorched-earth policy of banning Pakistan entirely from the world cricket arena, but something tells me this is the last England-Pakistan series we will have seen for a long time.

Anyway, enough of all that.

2:30 this afternoon at The Oval gave us the ridiculous scenario of Mike Atherton, standing in front of a big screen, ready to introduce a film clip naming this year’s England Ashes squad, a clip produced with all the slick bombast the ECB could muster and giving us a list already in the possession of news editors ready to click “update” on their websites on the stroke of 2:30 while the great ignorant unwashed were still digesting the news.

In brief: Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar are in; no room for Adil Rashid or Ajmal Shahzad. Shahzad is in the Performance Squad; Rashid is not. Another notable absentee – from both squads – is Ravi Bopara, who will be playing first class cricket in South Africa. I am very pleased to see Tremlett given this opportunity, as I’ve been a fan of the guy since I saw him at Trent Bridge in 2007, where he took 3-12 in India’s second innings when they only needed 73 to win. He got a lot of applause from the fans in the stands that day, and seems a bowler reborn this year after moving to Surrey after criticism that he wasn’t aggressive enough: I’m hoping his prodigious height and ability to bang it in will pay dividends on the hard, bouncy Australian wickets.

Monty Panesar is also back, and will add backup to Graeme Swann should they require two spinners at Adelaide or Sydney. He acquitted himself well at the WACA in 2006, taking 5-92, in a series that turned into a relentless drubbing for England. Australia are not the team they were back then, but England will still need to pull out all the stops to beat them; this will be no cake walk.

In other good news, Leicestershire’s own wunderkind batsman, James Taylor, has been included in the Performance Squad. I would have liked to have seen Nathan Buck picked as well – perhaps it is still too early for him – but Taylor will be in Australia, during the Ashes, and well, given an injury or two, who knows?

The countdown to the Ashes starts now. Am I excited? Oh hells yes.

Chris Tremlett bowling at Trent Bridge, 2nd Test against India, 2007

Chris Tremlett bowling at Trent Bridge, 2nd Test against India, 2007

End of another summer

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Last week was my final visit to Grace Road for the season, for the Championship game against Gloucestershire.  This will not be the last match I’m present at this year – that will be Melbourne in December, for some Antipodean tourney England are participating in – but it was attended with the same familiar, gentle tug of melancholy that I feel every year when I watch cricket in September at my second home.

I’d missed the first day – Leics had notched up 295 – and after a delayed start due to bad light Gloucestershire resumed on 54-2, Nathan Buck having taken the 2 wickets the evening before in a fearsome opening spell. Hamish Marshall was the only man who showed any semblance of resistance with an innings of 61, as Gloucestershire collapsed to 159 all out, and Leicestershire at stumps were cruising nicely on 147-1 with a lead of 283 and young Greg Smith in complete control of the bowling on 70.

Returning to the ground the next day I watched Smith raise his bat upon making a superb maiden 1st class ton – and certainly not his last for the county – and when Matthew Hoggard finally declared at around 3:15 in the afternoon, young Greg was on 158* and Gloucestershire needed 488 to win, ending the day on 78-5.

Greg Smith celebrates his maiden 1st class century

Greg Smith celebrates his maiden 1st class century

I have to confess I didn’t quite understand the logic behind the timing of Hoggard’s declaration: 400 would have been more than enough, and he did not seem in any particular hurry even after Smith had brought up his 150; add to that the fact that pretty lousy weather was forecast for Day 4, and there could have been a few faces with egg on them if they’d been unable to knock off the last 5 wickets.

The weather on Friday was indeed bloody awful, but the last 5 were eventually dispatched. Standout performers for the Foxes were of course the lad Smith, England bowler in waiting Nathan Buck, and that redoubtable warhorse Claude Henderson, with help from the county’s next all-rounder in the making, Jigar Naik, but really, it was a top-notch team effort. The result now is that Leicestershire have a mathematical chance of promotion (for “mathematical” read “negligible” but hell, keep hope alive, eh?) as they head to Wantage Road for the last match of the season on Monday.

While I only attended 2 days of the Gloucestershire match, as is usual with my visit to Grace Road, there was more to enjoy than just what was happening on the field. I chatted to the usual suspects, enjoyed the banter, kept my ears pinned for developments on the backroom/board front and on who was going where and who’d been offered what in the shape of a contract for next year. A members’ forum on the Wednesday evening after play yielded no real answers on the current boardroom crisis, though in truth none were expected; recriminations continue to fly back and forth between the board and ex-chief executive David Smith, and the situation remains muddy and unresolved.

With all that hovering in the background I was determined to just enjoy the cricket. The result gave me and the rest of the Leicestershire supporters something to celebrate and the overall goal of promotion is an elusive but tantalising possibility.

View from the boundary

View from the boundary

An Uncivil War

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

A midweek start to a county championship match at Grace Road is usually a moribund affair, but not so yesterday as Leicestershire took to the field for the first day’s play against Surrey. Unfortunately, though, this had more to do with recent events off the field than on it.

On Monday, news broke that captain Matthew Hoggard had written a letter, also signed by coach Tim Boon, to the board demanding the resignation of chairman Neil Davidson. This was the latest development in a shemozzle that has been ongoing since chief executive David Smith resigned back in June citing interference from the board in team selection: one instance allegedly being the insistence of Davidson on the selection of spinner Jigar Naik to play at a T20 game versus Yorkshire, despite Naik being unfit to play.

Since then allegations, recriminations and petty insults have flown back and forth between Davidson and Smith, and a petition drawn up by Leicestershire members demanding a Special General Meeting calling for a vote of no confidence in Davidson and the board was rejected on the grounds that it did not conform to club rules: namely that three pages of the petition did not contain the resolutions, and that the petition itself was handed in to the offices at Grace Road rather than the secretary’s office which is, inexplicably, in Nottingham. Some may call these legal technicalities, others, loopholes; however one wishes to describe them, the rejection of this petition looks petty, despotic and a thinly-veiled stalling tactic designed to avoid a frank and open discussion of issues which have plunged the club into a crisis unprecedented in its history.

When David Smith resigned he stated he wished to call an extraordinary general meeting to discuss these issues but did not hold out much hope of raising one as “unfortunately our members seem to be passive”.

Well, not any more. Despite an indifferent weather forecast, attendance was most definitely up yesterday, and as dark rain clouds moved in over Grace Road I sat amidst a lot of extremely angry members irritated not only by Davidson’s evasiveness and his unwillingness to have things discussed in an open and democratic manner, but by the rejection of their petition, an arrogantly defensive letter sent out several weeks ago by Davidson to the membership that was a mixture of personal insult and rank hypocrisy, and the fact the situation has deteriorated so much that coach, captain and players have been moved to make their feelings clear.

We clustered round the TV in the Meet as Davidson was interviewed by a Sky Sports News reporter and I would be lying if I said that what I heard did not irritate me in the extreme.

Firstly, Davidson said he did not interfere in selection “on a week-to-week… day-to-day basis; it’s when we lose matches we should win and we lost all our home games in Twenty20 this year bar one which was rained off”. He also cited the county’s record in this year’s CB40 tournament, using the example of Leicestershire losing twice to Scotland, “who’ve lost by nine wickets to Afghanistan”. What he strangely neglected to mention was that Leicestershire have won six of their eight Twenty20 matches away, the Foxes stand a mathematical chance of promotion in the county championship, and the day after their defeat by Afghanistan, Scotland beat them by six wickets: Afghanistan are a promising and emerging Associate nation, and Scotland are capable on their day of beating better opponents than Leicestershire. Davidson thus in the space of one sentence managed to insult Leicestershire, Scotland and Afghanistan: no mean achievement but perhaps not an overly desirable quality in a spokesman for the club one is a member of. (I should confess that a large part of my anger stems from the fact I am Scottish, a Leicestershire member, and have nothing but huge respect and admiration for the Afghanistan cricket team, so for Davidson to piss me off any more than he did yesterday would have taken some beating.)

Davidson also took Hoggard and Boon to task for “setting a very poor example to our fine young players about how they should behave at a cricket club,” saying it was up to the members to decide the fate of the chairman; lip-service at best to any illusion of democracy considering the rejection of the first petition.

He also stated he would have preferred this whole sorry brouhaha to be conducted behind closed doors, which, given what has been aired in the press, is hypocritical at best.

There is obviously more going on behind the scenes than the majority of the Leicestershire membership are privy to, which underlines the absolute need for a special general meeting, a view former chief executive Mike Turner – having held his peace until now – holds strongly.

At the time of writing, signatures for a second petition have been gathered, and this will be presented to the board within the next couple of days. The Leicestershire board will also meet to discuss the fate of Davidson, who is currently on holiday in Italy. The board can ask him to step down as chairman, but only a vote by the membership can remove him from the board. So we shall see.

In the meantime, I should mention there was a cricket match going on. As well as having a rough day off the field, our lads did not fare much better on it as Leicestershire’s nemesis, Mark Ramprakash, made merry with the bowling to score his 113th century and his 7th against the county. It was a display of batting that was assured, professional, and a joy to watch: a stark contrast to the ugliness that currently simmers at Grace Road and which must be dealt with swiftly if the club is to move on and continue developing its own not inconsiderable talent.

Ramps on his way to 179

Ramps on his way to 179