ECB braced for legal action
Lawyers working for the Indian Cricket League are believed to be preparing the ground to file lawsuits against the ECB, following yesterday's news that five ICL players were refused registration by the England board.
The five players - Justin Kemp, Hamish Marshall, Johan van der Wath, Wavell Hinds and Andrew Hall - were all refused by a rule which requires non-England players not to have played for their home countries in the past 12 months. The ECB seem confident that they are on a firm legal footing but, privately, the ICL believe they have a very strong case for a 'restraint of trade' suit.
"Our clients are taking this extremely seriously," a lawyer representing the ICL told the Daily Telegraph, "and we will be supporting them. They find themselves in a nightmare situation where they have signed a contract with the counties in good faith and now they are not allowed to play."
The counties themselves are unlikely to take action against the ECB; most have seen this situation coming for months. The worst situation for all, though, is if the players take action against the counties themselves; if the counties lose, the ECB would have to bail them out. Where this leaves the likes of Marshall, who turned his back on New Zealand and is now effectively unemployed, is unclear.
These five players won't be the last; the ECB are expecting another raft of applications which will only intensify the pressure on both the counties and the board, not to mention increase the ICL's belief that their legal case for action is solid. The Professional Cricketers Assocation (PCA) announced two weeks ago that it would step in to help the players better understand the muddle, and would conduct meetings with all the counties before the start of the season.
"Our position hasn't changed from two weeks ago when we made our last statement," Jason Ratcliffe, the PCA's assistant chief executive, told Cricinfo today, adding that the meetings had yet to be concluded.