<
>

More changes at Somerset as now Cooper steps down

A view of Taunton in late season Getty Images

Lee Cooper, who took over the role of Somerset chief executive only nine months ago, is to relinquish the position because of pressures of work.

Cooper had told Somerset that he could stand aside from the bulk of his duties at Cooper Associates, one of England's fastest-growing financial services companies, where he remains as a non-executive director.

But that scenario has not materialised as he has found it increasingly difficult to distance himself from a company that he founded, and which lies just across the road from the Taunton ground that carries its name.

Alarm calls several hours before dawn have not been uncommon as he has attempted to balance both roles.

In a statement issued by the club, Cooper said: "When I took up the role of chief executive at Somerset, I assured the then chairman and the committee that I would be able to fulfil my duties whilst standing aside completely from my former responsibilities with Cooper Associates.

"It has become increasingly apparent to me that it has not been as straight forward as I envisaged to do so.

"I do not believe that it is fair to the club that I continue as Chief Executive if it is likely that other business commitments begin to affect the amount of time that I can properly devote to its affairs."

Andy Nash, Somerset's former chairman, has confirmed that he has no interest in returning to the county in a new role, remarking that his own chief executive days are behind him.

Nash resigned as Somerset chairman to become a Board member of the ECB but he stood down from the Board last week in protest about additional payments to Test-hosting grounds.

Nash claimed the payments were further evidence of a desire within the higher echelons of ECB to dismantle the 18-county system in favour of as few as eight city-based teams - precisely the model being used for the new Twenty20 competition.

Charles Clark, Nash's replacement as chairman, will now supervise the latest upheaval in Taunton: "I have been aware for some time that Lee has been facing some very challenging personal decisions," he said. "Whilst his tenure has been relatively short, he has impressed all who have come into contact with him with his enormous work ethic, diligence, openness, organisational capabilities, courage, determination and passion for our club."

Cooper certainly achieved much in his short time. He restructured the cricket department, resulting in the return of Andy Hurry and the departure at the end of last season of Matthew Maynard as coach.

At the end of last season, he threatened legal action action against the ECB during Middlesex's appeal over relegation which, had it been successful, would have sent Somerset down in their place.

He also revamped the club's membership structure, raising additional revenue but bringing a mixed response. He was forced to publish an an open letter in which he addressed claims of a "conflict of interest" between his roles at Somerset CCC and Cooper Associates, stressing: "Personally, I'm a Somerset supporter first and an employee second and from my perspective, we're in this together."

To complete a feverish period, there was also disappointment. When the ECB released their Major Match List for 2020-2024, Taunton failed to gain any England internationals and also failed to be chosen as a venue - even a part-time venue - for the the new domestic T20 tournament due to start in 2020. In the West Country, there was talk of ECB betrayal.