“That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into…”
Maybe Oliver Hardy knew more about the nonsense that has once again returned to Derbyshire cricket behind the scenes than he was letting on, but there can be little doubt that this is an unholy mess to be in on the verge of a new cricket season.
Now you pay your money and take your choice in so far as who you believe in this sorry episode and to be fair we have thus far only heard one side of the tale. Only committee members will know the true story, but so far as it goes, I think at this stage that we have shot ourselves in the foot once again and I’ll tell you why.
Only a few short weeks ago, Keith Loring, a man widely respected within the game for his financial acumen, was assuring supporters that we are well set for the future, despite a poor financial return for the past twelve months. Now all but one county have reported a trading loss, so we are far from alone in having a poor year in admittedly mitigating circumstances.
The ECB money, a not inconsiderable £300K that we will get later in the year for upgrading the ground, together with a rationalisation of playing staff that has seen the costs reduced already was a step in the right direction. Indeed, Loring was predicting a return to the positive balances to which we have become accustomed next year, as the result of this work and the ever improving income generation strands, especially from the new marquee.
The irony in all this, of course, is that Don Amott, with Keith Loring (and Tom Sears before him) has presided over Derbyshire’s best run of financial returns in their history. Why wouldn’t he? The man has built up a highly impressive business empire and has been both a major sponsor and benefactor to the club, something akin to £120,000 at present, according to Mark Eklid in the Derby Telegraph.
With respect to Phil Kirby, David Griffin and Malcolm Nicholas, who are they trying to kid in telling Don Amott how to run a business? I know little about them, but if they are trying to muscle in on the work that Amott and Loring have done then they are doing no one any favours. Anyone who can turn a little club like ours into a viable business model has to have a lot going for them. I have regarded Amott and Loring as a ‘dream team’ in so far as the running of a club is concerned and I am both saddened and angered at this turn of events.
It is the knock ons that concern me most. What about our business partners, many of them arisen through the inter-personal skills and contacts of Don Amott and Keith Loring? Will they still wish to be involved? Will Loring stay? If people who should know better start to stick their oar into the work of people of rare talent, we are on a very slippery slope indeed and they had better have a good plan B in hand.
I am especially concerned by suggestions that those named wanted an involvement in team affairs. By this, I assume that they want to tell John Morris that he has to pick a ‘financially viable’ team that will maximise our age-related income from the ECB but not necessarily be our strongest. I might be wrong, but that doesn’t sound like the road to success to me, especially for someone in the last year of a contract.
I would not expect John Morris to tolerate any interference in his selections and nor would I in his situation. He is paid to do a job and should be allowed to do so. He is a professional, he knows his job inside out, he knows the system and the way that it works. The others involved are, like me and I guess you, simply amateurs. We pick our fantasy teams and support the club but have no real idea of how the balance sheet and the pressures of constructing a competitive team works in reality. That is why most people with common sense are happy to leave it to the experts. Would you go to your doctor, tell him what’s wrong and ask him to sign the prescription you had self-diagnosed? Would you get a new boiler installed and tell the guy how to do it? Of course not.
The three people named above should be hanging their heads in shame tonight. There was little, if anything, wrong with Derbyshire cricket and most fans were anticipating a season of good, competitive cricket. Sure, a little more money would have been handy and might have led to our recruiting established names rather than ones with reputations to build. Yet the advent of Chris Grant, the reorganisation of the coaching staff and the winter recruitment, allied to the existing acumen of Don Amott and the off-field wizardry of the commercial team, suggested that better times lay ahead.
I suspect the repercussions of this will go on for some time. I certainly hope that the existing membership let the ‘players’ behind this scenario know that they have done the club a disservice. As committee members they have a duty to represent the fans, few of who would have either wanted or anticipated this turn of events. I could understand this more if it was a full committee decision, not the work of three men. What I'd like to know is whose idea it was. Will someone be big enough to stand up and admit it was them?
Look at how this club has been stabilised under Don Amott. How the financial issues have been largely addressed, how the County Ground has changed for the better, how cricket has returned to Chesterfield. Think of his entertaining chats in the commentary box on Radio Derby, when he was by a distance the strongest component.
With the forthcoming committee elections in tatters, maybe this is the time for a vote of no confidence. I can think of three people who could perhaps do the honourable thing and resign in between times and there will be others who would be prepared to stand, to represent their fellow members and to let people who know what they are doing get on with it, supporting them as and when required.
Phil Kirby, Dave Griffin and Malcolm Nicholas may well currently be committee members and office holders. But Derbyshire fans? If they are, they have a damn funny way of showing it and until we hear their side I will take some persuading otherwise.
As for fans, I've had a record amount of texts and e mails today, so I've reintroduced the poll. Let's see what you, the people that these guys represent, think about the situation.
Interesting reading no doubt...