County news August 23, 2010

Leicestershire chairman told to quit

George Dobell

Leicestershire captain, Matthew Hoggard, has demanded the immediate removal of the club's chairman, Neil Davidson.

Hoggard and the club's director of cricket, Tim Boon, have written a letter to the board of Leicestershire demanding that Davidson either resigns or is dismissed. Cricinfo understands the letter has the support of all Leicestershire players, the groundstaff and most of the club's administrative staff. Former chief executive, Mike Turner, the man who has done more for Leicestershire cricket than anyone over the last half-century, is also understood to be supportive.

Hoggard and Boon allege that Davidson has interfered in cricket matters at the club. It is also alleged that Davidson's somewhat robust style of management has intimidated staff and made the club unattractive to new players. There are growing concerns over the financial state of the club, too. Leicestershire have declared losses in six of the last seven years.

If Davidson refuses to go, the players are considering some sort of on-field protest during the championship match against Surrey at Grace Road that starts on Tuesday. Cricinfo understands that Hoggard and co. have consulted both the ECB and the PCA (the players' union) over such a gesture.

The key episode which sparked this was the departure of the chief executive, David Smith. A former batsman with Warwickshire (he's a brother of the former Warwickshire allrounder, Paul Smith), he went on to enjoy a highly successful career in business before returning to cricket.

Inheriting a troubled club at Grace Road, he not only weaned the club away from their reliance on Kolpak registrations, but returned the club to profitability. In the current economic environment, that's no mean achievement. He also sits on the ECB's cricket committee. Smith and Davidson fell out, however. Smith felt that Davidson was interfering in the selection of the side - e-mails that have leaked out from the club suggest he has a point - and Smith tendered his resignation. He subsequently initiated legal action against the club, claiming constructive dismissal.

Understandably, this alarmed a portion of the membership. As a result, a couple of concerned members collected the requisite number of signatures (club rules dictate that it must be a minimum 5% of the membership) on a petition calling for a special general meeting. At it they intended to call a vote of no confidence in Davidson and the Leicestershire board.

Davidson denied their request, however, citing a couple of legal technicalities - an approach that has done nothing to appease angry members. Firstly he said that the last three pages of the petition did not contain the resolutions (the inference being that people did not know what they were signing) and secondly he said the petition should have been handed to the company secretary, whose office is in Nottingham, rather than to the offices at Grace Road.

"What is happening here at the moment sets an extremely dangerous precedent," said Davidson in a statement. "No cricket club can allow itself to be held to ransom by its coach, captain and players. The board is elected by the members and it is they who ultimately control the club."

Davidson was appointed chairman at the end of 2003. Since then membership has dropped from around 5,000 to around 1,460, while Smith was the sixth chief executive to leave the club under Davidson's chairmanship. Hoggard, the former England and Yorkshire swing bowler, joined Leicestershire as captain before the start of the current season.