A disaster for Durham, says Pete Sixsmith of the enforced relegation of Durham County Cricket Club. I shall leave him to explain the intricacies and implications of the England and Wales Cricket Club decision. Suffice to say Sixer – who traditionally uses what he earns marking examination papers towards the cost of attending SAFC and DCCC matches – is an angry man …
Draco, as we all know seeing as we studied Ancient Greek at school, was an Athenian law scribe who lived in the 7th century BC. He introduced a system of laws that replaced the old blood feuds and, instead, imposed harsh punishments for small offences, working on the idea that it would dissuade others from misbehaving.
The decision that the England and Wales Cricket Club made yesterday can be described as draconian. The offences may not have been small but the punishment is out of all proportion to the “crimes” that Durham County Cricket Club committed.
Durham have debts which, by the standards of Premier League football, are relatively small beer. The amount is somewhere in the region of £7.5m, the price that Sunderland paid for Danny Graham and Liam Bridcutt. Those two proved to be worthless to Sunderland, contributing absolutely nothing to the club, while Durham County Cricket Club have supplied the England cricket team with the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Steve Harmison.
The financial situation has become so desperate that they had to go cap in hand to various organisations for money to bail them out. Durham County Council was tapped for £4m, the Local Enterprise Partnership loaned money at a rate of 7.49 per cent and the EWCB was asked for a £3m loan to tide them over. The only organisation not asked was Wonga.
As always, chickens come home to roost and the payments and expenditure of running a Test Match ground and paying a decent salary to players, caught up with the County. They did not employ an overseas player this year. No new players were brought in. They relied on home reared men like Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick or players picked up from the Celtic fringe like Callum McLeod and Barry McCarthy.
Despite this, they finished fourth in the County Championship, ahead of money bags Surrey, a club disliked by this correspondent and many other cricket watchers and Warwickshire, who have debts that are, allegedly, in excess of £20m. Hampshire and Nottinghamshire, both counties with Test Match grounds were relegated, Durham hammering home the final nail in the southern county’s coffin in the last game of the season.
There had been rumours of administration earlier in the season. Last week, in The Times, Mike Atherton suggested that a points deduction for going into administration, would lead to relegation. The fears began to grow and then the news came in yesterday that the ECB had loaned the club £3.5m to see them through.
Like Wonga (other high interest lenders are available) a loan like this comes with strings attached but these strings were more of a noose than strings.
Durham suffered a 48 point deduction from last season which meant that they finished in the second relegation place with Hampshire being reprieved.
In addition to that, they would start next season’s Second Division campaign on minus 48 points and would suffer points deductions in both the T20 and One Day Cup competitions.
The Riverside would no longer be classified as a Test Match ground and May’s poorly attended game against Sri Lanka would be the final five-day game to be played in the most northerly test venue in the world.
The insistence of previous regimes at the ECB on the Riverside being a test ground and the ridiculous idea of bidding to put on these games, is instrumental in the plight that Durham find themselves now.
They have not been helped by the allocation of games, which have either been against less popular opponents (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe) and often at times when the weather in the far north has not been conducive to sitting quietly for six hours watching what can be a slow game. With no more test cricket, the huge ground will become unsustainable and will be a testament to the folly of the ECB who insisted that it be built in the first place.
All in all, it is an absolute disaster for a team that battled away throughout the summer and did as well as any team in the County Championship. They lost Ben Stokes for most of the summer and then, at the end of the season, Stoneman and Borthwick announced that they would be leaving the club that developed them to go and play for Surrey, a club that takes players from other counties and South Africa in an attempt to sup at the top table. I have never forgiven them for imposing the dreadful Jade Dernbach on the cricketing public.
Of course, the people who suffer most are the players and supporters. Agents will be sniffing round other more indebted but more secure counties, seeing if the can place their clients there. As for the support, instead of Surrey and Somerset, they will be watching Gloucestershire and Glamorgan, the latter who had a £6m debt to their local authority wiped off.
In 1757, the British Admiral, Sir John Byng, was court-martialled and shot for “not doing his utmost” to prevent the French from capturing Minorca, prompting Voltaire to say that “in England, it is good from time to time, to kill an admiral, to encourage the others”.
One can’t help feeling that there are remarkable similarities between the Admiralty in the 18th Century and the England and Wales Cricket Board in the 21st.
* Shameless and unrelated plug but for a good cause: Monsieur Salut’s daughter Christelle, not the footballing one but the girlie who is surprised when teams kick the other way after half time, is climbing Ben Nevis for Breast Cancer Care on October 15. Sponsor her a little if you think, as I do, that her project merits support: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Christelle-Randall?utm_medium=email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20161004_87048