Leatherdale criticism 'unfounded', says PCA chairman

PCA chairman Daryl Mitchell (right) with chief executive David Leatherdale PCA

Daryl Mitchell has sprung to the defence of David Leatherdale after criticism in several newspapers suggesting he no longer enjoyed the full confidence of the players he is meant to represent. Leatherdale, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), effectively the players' union in England and Wales, has recently taken time off due to illness.

But while some have suggested Leatherdale is overly influenced by the ECB, Mitchell, the organisation's chairman, has described him as a "brilliant CEO" who retains "the full support of the members". He has also described much of the criticism Leatherdale has faced - specifically over a change in the nature of England player contracts with the ECB and the ending of a sponsored car deal with Toyota - as unfounded.

"There have been accusations that the PCA is too close to the ECB," Mitchell told ESPNcricinfo, "but the way I see it, we have a strong, constructive relationship with the ECB that allows our voice to be heard and our views to shape plans.

"We will negotiate hard and take a strong line when necessary. But nobody wants the situation we saw in Australia where the relationship between the board and players breaks down. I'd have thought the relationship we have with the ECB, a relationship that allows us a place at the table when all decisions are taken, is extremely positive.

"Much of the criticism David has faced in recent days has been unfounded and inaccurate. I'm not aware of any angry emails from England players complaining about their sponsorship deals. There have been a couple asking for clarification, but nothing more than that, and those commercial deals are arranged by the ECB in any case.

"And the idea that players are suddenly upset by a change in the awarding of incremental contracts is very strange. The way incremental contracts are awarded was changed in October 2016 as the ECB moved away from the points scoring system and are now awarded on a discretionary basis and have been for the past 18 months."

It is certainly a busy time for the PCA. As well as negotiating the next Team England Player Partnership (TEPP) - effectively the new central contracts - and England Women's Player Partnership, the PCA is also central to talks regarding new Memorandums of Understanding between the first-class counties and the ECB.

With the new broadcast deal having brought unprecedented amounts of money into the game in England and Wales, there is pressure on Leatherdale and the PCA to strike a deal that will see players' remuneration reflect that windfall. It is understood, however, that family health issues may have contributed to Leatherdale's current illness as much as work issues.

Either way, Mitchell insists it is a case of "business as usual" for the organisation in Leatherdale's absence. Bob Mitchell, a PCA trustee and successful lawyer, will take the lead on negotiations regarding TEPP and Matthew Wheeler, the PCA's non-executive chairman, will also take more responsibility. Marcus Trescothick and Joe Root are also involved in the TEPP management committee. It is understood Root was involved in a TEPP discussion on Friday.

"It is business as usual for the PCA," Daryl Mitchell said. "We continue to deliver all those services - the personal development, the helplines, the training opportunities, the support and contract advice - that our members rely on us for.

"The important thing is that David is given the time and space to fully recover. He has the full support of PCA members and we all wish him well. There is no timeframe as to when we expect him back. He must take as long as he needs."

Mitchell's words were echoed by Tammy Beaumont, who is the PCA representative for the England women's team. "There is no crisis of confidence from our side," she tweeted. "PCA has always worked with our best interest at heart. Wishing David a speedy recovery."