Tom Harrison steps down as ECB chief executive amid England overhaul

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Tom Harrison, the CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board, is to step down from the role next month with Clare Connor, the former England captain and current managing director of women’s cricket and president of the MCC, lined up as interim replacement as a whirlwind few months of change at the top of English cricket continue.

Already this year the England men’s team have removed or replaced their director of cricket, red-ball head coach, assistant coach and captain, while the ECB are yet to find a permanent replacement for their chairman, Ian Watmore, who stood down last October after just over a year in the post. Watmore’s interim replacement, Barry O’Brien, himself resigned last month because of ill health.

Harrison, who played five first-class matches for Derbyshire in 1995, has been an often controversial figure since his appointment in 2014, most notably driving through the introduction of the Hundred, a new limited-overs competition that was played for the first time in 2021 despite resistance from many within the game. The announcement of his departure was timed to avoid his position being the subject of debate at the ECB’s annual general meeting on Wednesday. Spencer Stuart, a global executive search firm, have been appointed to identify a successor.

Ostensibly because of the Hundred’s commercial success Harrison and a group of senior executives are in line to share a £2.1m bonus pot, despite cutting 20% of the organisation’s workforce during the pandemic. Last month the Wisden Almanack criticised the bonus award for displaying “ethics that were as bad as the optics” and called on Harrison to return or refuse the money. Meanwhile last November his performance in front of a digital, culture, media and sport select committee investigating the game’s response to Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Yorkshire was sufficiently concerning for county executives to discuss calling for his removal.

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“Since taking up the role of CEO Harrison has overseen record levels of investment across the game at all levels,” the ECB said in a statement. “He also led the ECB’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic as cricket confronted unprecedented financial challenges … The ECB’s annual revenue almost trebled during Harrison’s tenure. Support from broadcast and commercial partners has been crucial to this growth, including through a successful long-term partnership with Sky and the return of live cricket to free-to-air TV with the BBC.”

Martin Darlow, the organisation’s current interim chair, said Harrison had “set the game on a path to growth and to being played and watched by more people from all backgrounds” and that during the pandemic “Tom’s leadership that brought the game together and saved us from the worst financial crisis the sport has ever faced”.

Richard Gould
Gould, son of the former Wales football manager Bobby and a former army tank commander, has spent more than two decades in sport administration, as commercial director of Bristol City, as CEO first of Somerset and then of Surrey, and since last year as chief executive of Bristol City.

Guy Lavender
Former Somerset CEO who joined the MCC in the same role in 2017. The Somerset chairman, Andy Nash, described Lavender as “a very rare and special talent” when appointing him in 2011 and as “a huge success who leaves vastly improved facilities and a business model which has become an exemplar in the game” when he left. Previously spent 18 years in the army, seeing service in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Johnny Grave
Reigate-born Grave worked for Surrey between 2000 and 2007, when he left to start nine years as commercial director of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. Since 2017 he has been SEO of Cricket West Indies, based in Antigua.

Tim Bostock
Bostock is a former cricketer – he played minor county cricket for Cheshire – who moved into banking and to Australia before Ian Botham, a long-time friend, personally tempted him back to England in 2018, when he became Durham’s chief executive.

Richard Bevan
Bevan has been chief executive of the League Managers’ Association since 2008, having previously worked for six years as chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. He also chairs the Team England Player Partnership, who provide contractual, financial and commercial representation for international cricketers.

Clare Connor
One of several potential appointees already at the ECB, also including chief operating officer David Mahoney, Connor was appointed managing director of women’s cricket in 2019 and will replace Harrison on an interim basis next month. She retired as a player in 2006 after winning 100 international caps and after six years as captain.

“It has been a huge honour to be CEO of the ECB for the past seven years,” Harrison said. “Cricket is an extraordinary force for good in the world and my goal has been to make the game bigger and ensure more people and more communities in England and Wales feel they have a place in this sport. The long-term health of cricket depends on its ability to grow and remain relevant and be more inclusive in an ever-changing world.

“The past two years have been incredibly challenging, but we have pulled together to get through the pandemic, overcome cricket’s biggest financial crisis, and committed to tackling discrimination and continuing the journey towards becoming the inclusive, welcoming sport we strive to be. I have put everything into this role, but I believe now is the right time to bring in fresh energy to continue this work.”

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