The boardroom practice of existing directors nominating new ones is open to the criticism that it can create a merry-go-round for those involved, detached from the people in whose interests they are supposed to direct. In the case of the ECB, county reps (39 of its 41 members are counties) have been done away with in the name of board independence, being able to make decisions for ‘the good of the game’.
A count of directorships held by those on its board shows that Scott Smith, the CFO, leads the way with a total of 10. Apart from his involvement with the National Archery Society he is the director of
|London Spirt (The Hundred) Ltd||Welsh Fire (The Hundred) Ltd|
|Oval Invincibles Ltd||Manchester Originals Ltd|
|Trent Rockets Ltd||Southern Brave Ltd|
|Birmingham Phoenix Ltd||Northern Superchargers Ltd|
As independent as that; if it looks like a rather strange arrangement that is because it is and comes from the ECB being the owner as well as the governing body for The 100. Common or some form of collective ownership has its advantages and is one thing, a common owner of two teams competing in professional sport is another thing entirely. It is prohibited in football in this country, point number one in the FA’s Owners and Directors Test (of those who are ‘fit and proper’). In rugby it has in the past also been blocked by the RFU.
The rule is there to help keep things honest, promote sporting integrity. Roman Abramovich (reportedly) might have taken over Tottenham Hotspur FC, did take over Chelsea but is prevented from owning both clubs: if he did would the matches between the two actually be straight and seen as such? Some individuals might find themselves unusually well-placed to profit in ‘prediction markets’ in the event of confusion over the issue.
So does the ECB have a future giving space to a sporting Rick’s in which its compliance staff will be ‘shocked, shocked to find that gambling has been going on’? As a matter of external scrutiny when it gave evidence to parliamentarians last year the ownership of The 100 was barely mentioned. The 8 teams were mistakenly referred to as franchises by one MP, an understandable confusion maybe given the distance that many personally feel from the way the game is run. Two days later the ECB put the detail of London Spirit Ltd and the others on the public record.
Something to keep quiet about? The ECB has set itself up as the sole shareholder of the 8 companies and it wouldn’t be very surprising if they were turned into franchises at some point, if The 100 lasts. In the last decade cricket’s governing body used to describe itself as a conduit for the game as a whole; on the evidence given to the DCMS it seems ever more like Sky’s conduit, with big decisions about the financing and integrity of the game taken by a very small number of individuals and in whose interest is that?