County news October 9, 2012

Brooks leaving Sussex on own terms

Dave Brooks has announced that he is to step down as chief executive of Sussex at the end of the year. He has overseen a fruitful period during which the club has achieved success on and off the field.

Brooks joined the club at the start of 2009 after 20 years in the food industry. He was the first chief executive in the club's history to be responsible for both Sussex CCC and the Sussex Cricket Board. During his tenure, the club won the Pro40 and T20 title in 2009 and Division Two of the County Championship in 2010 and off the field built a new stand, media centre and conference facilities and integrated professional and recreational cricket within the county. Sussex were fourth in Division One of the Championship in 2012 and lost in the semi-finals of both the Flt20 and CB40 competition.

Those digging for murky reasons behind the departure will search in vain. 45-year-old Brooks was certainly not pushed and has not applied for another role within the game. Indeed, he insists he has no idea what his next job will be. But, having built up a considerable personal fortune during his period in the food industry, he is not in a position where he is obliged to rush into anything. He leaves on his own terms.

"When I was appointed I promised I would do three years," Brooks told ESPNcricinfo. "In the end I've done four and I feel I've achieved what we set out to achieve. I've always felt that a period of three to five years was the right time to lead an organisation and I want to go while my passion for the job remains high. I love cricket now as much as when I started this job. I still play for Cookham Dean Seconds in the Thames Valley League and I always said I wanted it to remain my passion and my hobby.

"This is the right time to go. My enthusiasm is still high and, if it takes a little longer to find my successor, I'll stay into January. But we have a decent platform here now and, with the Australians playing at Hove next year, the club should do well commercially. It will be a good time for a new person to start.

"I'm incredibly proud every time I come through the gates and see the new stand. It has been a privilege to be part of cricket in Sussex for the last four years and, as a team, on and off the pitch, we can be proud of our achievements. I hope that those who follow me will feel the same."

"Dave Brooks has been a transformational chief executive," the club's chairman, Jim May, said. "He has combined an astute business focus with an empathy and understanding for cricket at all levels. He master-minded the ground development at Hove into one of the best grounds in the country. Dave has been an outstanding chief executive who leaves Sussex with our very best wishes, and, in great shape for his successor."

"Will I ever work in cricket again?" Brooks said. "Never say never. But I have no plans in that direction. The first love is always the sweetest and, having fallen in love with Sussex, it would be very hard to work anywhere else. I'll miss Sussex enormously."

Brooks laughed at the suggestion he could run against Giles Clarke as chairman of the ECB. "That's an unpaid position, you know," he said.

Reflecting on his experience within the game, Brooks urged counties to develop greater independence from the ECB and develop revenue streams that are not reliant on centrally distributed broadcast deals. "Historically there has been a bit of a culture of dependence," he said. "Some counties have been overly reliant on the income from broadcast revenues and a successful England team. I'd like to see more counties developing their own business models and, with the help of Gordon Hollins at the ECB, they have made some good progress in that area.

"It's not just about financial independence. It's about the culture. I'm not sure you can have a vibrant on-field culture if you have a lack of energy off it. It would be nice to see clubs infused with energy on and off the pitch.

"But the one thing I wish we did better was talking up the quality of the county game. The quality is very good and we shouldn't be ashamed to say that watching county cricket is a very nice day out.

"We should stamp out that rubbish about only 'one man and his dog' watching. We get very respectable crowds here at Hove and I know they do at some other grounds, too. I remember the ovation Scott Styris received when he walked off after scoring a 37-ball century in a T20 game against Gloucestershire. There were 6,000 people on their feet and applauding. It summed up the warmth and excitement you can experience in county cricket. There is a lot to be proud of and I wish we heard a bit more about that."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo