Lawyers await board's decision April 9, 2008

ECB faces legal action over player ban

Cricinfo staff

Hamish Marshall: he 'signed a good-faith contract and had no reason to think that there would be consequences' © Getty Images
It is reported that as many as eight players are ready to resort to legal action depending on today's ECB decision on whether to allow overseas cricketers who have signed with the unauthorised ICL to register for counties.

Cricinfo has been aware for some time that players were willing to take the England board to court should it carry out threats to impose bans, and it is believed that some of the funding for one or two players for such action might be coming from the ICL itself.

The ECB maintains that it cannot register players such as Shane Bond and Jason Gillespie unless it obtains permission, via a No Objection Certificate from their home boards. However, the boards concerned are distancing themselves from the row and are declining to grant or refuse such certificates.

The ECB has maintained that it is on sound legal ground, but that is disputed by Andrew Fitch-Holland, who represents Andrew Hall and Hamish Marshall. "My clients are suffering because they have signed contracts that start this summer," he told Cricinfo. "But they signed good-faith contracts and at the time had no reason to think that there would be consequences. How is it fair and reasonable that they are now prevented from playing?"

Under the ECB's own regulations, any player refused registration has a right to a personal hearing or an appeal in front of a three-man panel with one representative from the ECB, one from the Professional Cricketers' Association and one from an independent arbitration organisation. However, this has not been offered to Marshall and Hall as an option.

Fitch-Holland is also concerned that any appeals process could drag on and compromise both his clients and the counties. "If Hamish cannot play for Gloucestershire then are the points they miss out on because he is not scoring the runs expected going to be returned? Of course not."

Marshall's case is more complex than most because he is an Irish passport holder and, strictly speaking, not even a Kolpak player. He has been refused because he last played for New Zealand on April 8, 2007, eight days after the April 1 cut-off. Had he played on March 31 then his registration could not have been declined.

It is possible that the ECB could compromise by allowing those affected to play while their appeals are heard, but that would put them into direct conflict with the Indian board which has zealously insisted that any ICL-contracted players be banned from playing anywhere.