Wilson delivers stinging attack on ECB's lack of vision
Writing in the February issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine, Wilson admits he would have supported the decision to sell live Test cricket to Sky, in return for a firm, progressive plan for how the money was to be spent.
But, according to Wilson, "while there have been assurances that the deal will help the developmental and recreational aspects of the game, there are no plans, let alone guarantees. In the meantime the 18 first-class counties are rubbing their hands in expectation of more money to spend on employing too many expensive overseas players and on other short-term projects."
Wilson says the attitude of the counties is summed up by the "cynical re-election of David Morgan as chairman, chosen because of his weakness, not his strength. The counties value his "safe pair of hands", meaning they can count on him to manage the status quo. And, as his career veers from comedy to catastrophe and back, that is what he is doing. He promises that cricket will spend the money wisely but the counties control Morgan, not the other way round.
"Cricket needs progressive, independent-minded leadership. It needs to invest the considerable sums of money provided by the Sky deal in long-term change. The Athertons of this world should be at the top of English cricket, not the Morgans," claims Wilson, who resigned from the ECB over the handling of the Zimbabwe issue in April last year.
His solution to safeguard TV revenue lies in a three point plan to re-define the role of the counties, with the money they receive linked to firm criteria.
"First, the number of overseas players should be restricted. Second, each county should produce playing, developmental and marketing plans to high standards. The marketing element matters; counties will never change while they have only to hold out their hand for the ECB to provide. Third, the ECB should retain a considerable proportion of the new money for special projects, one being to develop Twenty20 cricket, extending the idea into communities and around the country to bring youngsters into the game", writes Wilson.
But interviewed in the same issue of the magazine, ECB chairman David Morgan argues that there will be controls applied to managing TV income: "In terms of overseas players we will introduce a new control from 2006 where there will be a cut-off point of July 1, so that's a step in the right direction. In terms of Kolpak players there's been a lot of talk of `gentlemen's agreements'. These are totally illegal and we're not going down that path. And we are introducing performance-related payments to the counties that may well involve the number of England-qualified players fielded in the Championship." Morgan also reveals that he received almost 300 letters and emails in response to the Sky deal and that he handed out a personal phone number to `the more sensible ones' for further discussion of the issue.
The February issue of The Wisden Cricketer, the world's largest-selling cricket magazine, is on sale from Friday 21 January priced at £3.40 for 100 pages of news, features, interviews, match reports and competitions.