Somerset are preparing to take legal action against the ECB should they suffer relegation as a result of Middlesex's appeal against an over-rate penalty.
Somerset finished one point above Middlesex having beaten them in the final game of the season and, as a result, Middlesex were relegated. But, with Middlesex appealing the two-point penalty imposed as a result of their slow over-rate in the abandoned game at The Oval a few weeks previously, it remains possible they could jump back above Somerset in the table. As a consequence, Somerset could still face relegation.
But Somerset's chief executive, Lee Cooper, has claimed the ECB will have "brought the game into disrepute" if his club are relegated and threatened immediate legal action.
"The implications of overturning the [over-rate penalty] decision are significant," Cooper told Somerset members at a club lunch that was also broadcast on Facebook. "We would be relegated. Having fought so hard to survive, that would be an unfair outcome.
"The decision regarding Middlesex's points deduction was made and because of that ours and other teams' tactics were determined by what we needed to do to stay in Division One.
"One example of that was the last game: if we needed two extra points, we would have had completely different tactics. We would have scored 300 in the first innings and we would have been fine. We prepared a result wicket, we won the game and we achieved the number of points we needed to survive. If in retrospect the ECB change that decision, they have brought the game into disrepute.
"If they overturn their decision, the case goes to the High Court and is deferred until 2019. What does that do to the game of cricket and where are we next year? So the decision that will be taken this afternoon is: do we go along that path and effectively play the same game that Middlesex are playing? On balance, I expect we'll issue legal proceedings this afternoon."
Shortly after the members' lunch, Somerset issued a statement confirming they had instructed a London law firm to prepare a case.
Cooper, who was appointed in June but has only been in the role at Somerset a few weeks, also raised some doubts as to the integrity of the ECB disciplinary process. As well as claiming the ECB had already broken their own rules by allowing Middlesex an appeal - at the time of the original penalty, the ECB said there was no right of appeal available - Cooper said he had been given some sort of "reassurances" that the appeal was now taking place only so the ECB could be "seen to be going through a process" and Somerset had "nothing to worry about."
As a result, he suggested he had little trust in them.
"The conversations [with the ECB] started with them saying 'Middlesex have no right of appeal' and that was quite conclusive," Cooper said. "Since then it has gained some traction and an appeal process is underway, which is a contradiction.
"We have reassurances - albeit not guarantees - from the ECB that they need to be seen to be going through a process but that we have nothing to worry about. [But] Having said there was no right appeal and now there being an appeal, we are not trusting that.
"We are left with a decision: we either trust that we'll be okay or we issue legal proceedings against the ECB."
The ECB has been contacted for comment.