ECB chief executive Tom Harrison speaking during a radio interview in Chittagong © Getty Images
Tom Harrison has insisted the ECB’s treatment of Durham has been harsh but “appropriate”.
Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, defended the decision to relegate Durham in the County Championship, impose a raft of points deductions in each of the 2017 domestic competitions and withdraw their status as a Test-hosting ground in return for a financial rescue package as a necessary “deterrent” to other counties.
And while he did not fully confront the ECB’s role in Durham’s failure – notably the its encouragement of the club building a Test venue – he did suggest Durham had to take responsibility for bidding more than they could afford in the pursuit of major matches.
“Having been through the most serious financial crisis any county been through – to the extent that the ECB was the last resort – we have to send a message to the other counties that this is not something that is going to be an attractive solution for any county finding themselves in that position,” Harrison told the BBC’s Test Match Special. “It’s not the ECB’s job to be the lender of last resort.
“In any business, you have to understand what your revenue is and what your costs are. If one gets out of whack it is not a pretty situation and it will end up hitting the wall at some point. The ECB had to step in to stop that happening in May or June this year. It was going to happen unless we had taken steps to avoid it.
“While it is very harsh in terms of the immediate penalties on the players for next year, I think it is appropriate and sends the message to other counties that this should be a significant deterrent. The playing sanctions are harsh but they are appropriate.”
Harrison accepted that the ECB’s historic method for allocating games, which involved a bidding system, might have contributed to Durham’s debts, but suggested the club had to take most of the responsibility. And he insisted that the measures taken had provided Durham with the foundations for financially stability in the future.
“The way matches were allocated was a bidding structure,” he said. “But no one was forced to bid a certain amount. There’s wasn’t a sword of Damocles over their head about having to stage Tests.
“Our absolute priority was to safeguard the future of professional and recreational cricket in the northeast of England. Durham could now be in a position where, 12 months after the most serious financial crisis that’s met any county, they are off and running with no debt and a new management structure and can look forward to the future in a very different way than when they were burdened by debt.”
Harrison also referred to the new-team domestic T20 competition – now set for a 2020 launch – as “the most significant development in county cricket in a generation”. Counties agreed to explore the proposals at an ECB meeting in September but the implementation has been delayed as discussions continue.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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