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New ECB chairman backs Hundred but warns job cuts are 'inevitable'

Ian Watmore promises more inclusive outlook to ECB board as he takes over from Graves

George Dobell
George Dobell
Ian Watmore, the ECB's new chairman  •  ECB/Getty Images

Ian Watmore, the ECB's new chairman  •  ECB/Getty Images

Ian Watmore has pledged the ECB will go ahead with the launch of the Hundred but warned that "nothing is ring-fenced" and redundancies were "inevitable" as the organisation looks to cut costs in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The launch of the competition was postponed this year due to the virus. But while there is currently no guarantee crowds will be allowed to return in 2021, Watmore, who officially succeeded Colin Graves as chair of the ECB on September 1, was insistent the Hundred should go ahead to "get new people interested" in the sport and build the women's game.
But if some of the messages were similar in content to Graves' time in office, the styles were notably different. Speaking of an "inclusive, consultative and collaborative" approach to his tenure - characteristics of which his predecessor was rarely accused - Watmore spoke to journalists while sitting in front of a Gibson guitar and a vintage poster of the 1975 Knebworth Park music festival which was headlined by Pink Floyd and Captain Beefheart.
"We will be implementing the Hundred," Watmore said. "It's particularly important to me for two reasons. One, it's to get new people interested in the game, and the other to give the women's game that professional, secure league structure that is so important to building the women's game.
"My analogy is from the FA in 2009: women's football was similar to where cricket is today: ready to grow. They had all the international fixtures they needed but didn't have a stable domestic structure, regular playing time and regular profile on TV.
"I'm conscious that there are a lot of people who are yet to be convinced by the need or viability of that format and I listen to them. The one thing I would like to say is that as an individual and a leader of this game: I'm a passionate believer in all forms of cricket, red-ball cricket is not just the best type of cricket to me, it's the best type of sport. The T20 that England played on Sunday was really well watched on the BBC. The Blast is a great tournament.
"We really need to reinforce this, I don't see the Hundred as something that needs to be in conflict with all the others, rather something that's added to it."
I don't see the Hundred as something that needs to be in conflict with all the others, rather something that's added to it
With the Hundred's future apparently guaranteed, Watmore and co. will have to turn to other areas of the organisation to make the cuts required to cope with the Covid situation. The ECB are currently projecting losses of over £100m this year with no certainty that 2021 will be much better. As a result, he accepted it was "inevitable" there would be redundancies.
"It's inevitable we are going to have to reduce expenditure on the ECB itself going forward," he said. "One of the urgent tasks we have to look at is how we deal with the financial impact of the Covid crisis and one of those is going to have to be to reduce the costs of the ECB. That will be painful in places and painful to people. I regret we have to do that but it is something we do have to do.
"I am expecting there will be reductions in the size of the ECB staff numbers. It is inevitable, I think, given the financial position we are in. It will involve a small amount of people at the ECB, I'm afraid."
While Watmore did not explicitly confirm ESPNcricinfo's story about the ECB considering a move away from their Lord's administrative base or from their Loughborough performance centre, he did not deny that either was a consideration.
"One of the impacts of the Covid world has been the way in which people now are routinely working like we are today on a screen, and a lot of companies are looking differently at what they would call their 'real estate'," he said. "So we will be doing the same. That might mean more remote working, it might mean more working around the country.
"We obviously start by attacking those costs which some people might regard as 'avoidable' or 'duplicative'. If we don't need to spend money on office space, we won't spend money on office space. We don't want to spend a lot of money on external consultancy if we can do the job ourselves.
"So there's that kind of efficiency drive first. But I am expecting there will be reductions in the size of the ECB staff numbers. It is inevitable, I think, given the financial position we are in."
While Watmore was unable to confirm any plans for the Hundred in 2021 - Graves has previously stated the ECB would go ahead with the launch even if games are played behind closed doors - he said that the board would take its lead from how other sports respond to the pandemic during the off-season, and react accordingly nearer the time.
"As far as next summer is concerned, we're hoping to have crowds back across all formats," he said. "But we will have alternative plans if that doesn't come about. We'll know more from sports over the winter and we'll take a decision as late as possible."
Watmore also said he had been attempting to "build relationships with the county chairs". As a direct manifestation of this, he has arranged for his first ECB board meeting to be held at Edgbaston and has invited the chairs of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire to attend. At an organisation where the drive for independence has seen it accused of being out of touch with its members, this represents more than cosmetic change.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo