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Ian Watmore stands down as ECB chairman with immediate effect

Chairman leaves role after just over a year in office, Barry O'Brien steps up as interim

George Dobell
George Dobell
Ian Watmore, the ECB's new chair-elect

Ian Watmore has served ten months of a five-year term as chairman  •  ECB/Getty Images

Ian Watmore has stood down as chair of the ECB with immediate effect after just over a year in the role.
Watmore, who experienced an almost equally brief period as chief executive of the FA just over a decade ago, is understood to have lost the confidence of the ECB board and the counties after a demanding couple of weeks which has seen England cancel their tour to Pakistan and a failure to agree a domestic schedule for the next couple of years.
The 63-year-old, who has also recently stood down from the position of First Civil Service Commissioner, is understood to be retiring completely. Current ECB Deputy Chair, Barry O'Brien, will step up as interim Chair, but has indicated to the ECB board that he will not be a candidate for the role. Instead a process to find a successor will begin shortly.
Watmore, the first chair to receive a salary for the role (£150,000 a year before expenses), could be forgiven for finding the job very different to the one he expected. His period in office, which officially started on September 1, 2020, has been defined by the battle to stage cricket in a time of Covid and has seen the ECB make relatively large-scale redundancies and suffer serious financial pressures. In a statement released by the ECB, Watmore alludes to some "wellbeing" concerns - he had a heart problem at the time he left the FA and is understood to have been wearied by the unrelenting pressure of his time at the ECB - and admits the demands of the job "taken have a personal toll" on him. It is understood that, when the issue of his future was raised, he was willing to move aside.
While initially popular with the counties, who welcomed his gentle style of management after years of more robust characters such as Giles Clarke and Colin Graves, Watmore appears to have lost their confidence in recent weeks. It is understood that several counties contacted the ECB to express their concerns after a meeting of the county chairs at Lord's last week in which he was described as somewhat confused. Several present at the meeting described it as "shambolic". The ECB has also been stung by criticism of the decision to cancel the England tour to Pakistan which was made by the ECB board chaired by Watmore.
But while Watmore's tenure at the ECB is unlikely to be remembered as especially successful, he did have an impact at the ICC. He was a key figure in Manu Sawhney's departure as the organisation's CEO and gave crucial impetus in the push towards cricket embracing Olympic participation.
It may be relevant, however, that the ICC part of his role demanded far more time than he had originally anticipated. And, at a time when the ECB seemed to lurch from crisis to embarrassment with only brief moments of respite between, he found himself worn, jaded and exhausted. Even his critics acknowledge he was a decent, well-meaning man who inherited an incredibly tough situation.
It might also raise questions about the character required for the role. Watmore, a data-led individual who didn't relish the spot light, was initially welcomed as a breath of fresh air after the eras of Graves and Clarke. But subsequent events might suggest their unquenchable self-belief and determination are pre-requisites for the job.
"It is with regret that I step down as Chair of the ECB, but I do so in mindfulness of my own wellbeing and that of the game which I love," Watmore said in a statement. "I was appointed to the post in a pre-pandemic era, but Covid has meant the role and its demands on time are dramatically different to all our original expectations, which has taken a personal toll on me. Given this, the Board and I feel the ECB will be better served by a new Chair to take it forward post pandemic. Leaving now, at the end of the season, gives the Board time to find a new Chair to support cricket through the challenges of the 2022 season and beyond.
"On a personal level, I also retired last month after five years at the Civil Service Commission and recently became a grandfather. I would now like to retire completely from work and enjoy our great game as a spectator."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo