The Durham captain, Paul Collingwood, has described the ECB's decision to relegate his county, and mete out further punishment through the docking of points in all three competitions next season, as "a massive kick in the nuts" for the Durham players, who are "100% innocent" of the financial troubles that have sealed the club's fate.
Durham had been in the top flight since the summer of 2006, making them the longest-serving Division One side since the introduction of two divisions in 2000 - a proud record for a club that did not even attain first-class status until 1992.
In that period, they won three Championship titles between 2008 and 2013 and two limited-overs competitions. This year, they reached the final of the Natwest T20 Blast and finished fourth in the Championship following their final-round victory over Hampshire, who now survive relegation at their expense despite also accruing large debts of their own (albeit manageable).
Next year, Durham start with -48 points in the Championship and -4 and -2 in the Blast and One-Day Cup respectively. Furthermore, the Riverside can no longer host Test matches and Durham have a revised salary cap until April 2020, all in exchange for a £3.8 million bailout from the governing body.
Speaking in Dhaka, where he has joined England's coaching staff for the tour of Bangladesh, a visibly emotional Collingwood said: "To be the only team ever relegated, since two divisions came in, [to be] actually penalised because of financial reasons, there's a lot of emotion about. The players are seriously unhappy. There's a lot of anger, a lot of 'whose fault is this?'
"What we want is for Durham CC to be a place where homegrown talent and first-class cricketers and international cricketers emerge, which is what we've done over the years, and what we are supposed to be. We want to be an establishment that wins things, and we've done that. To be penalised like this is a massive kick in the nuts."
Negotiations between Durham and the ECB began in November 2015, and Collingwood and his team-mate Ben Stokes met with the ECB chief executive Tom Harrison and director of cricket Andrew Strauss in Dhaka on Saturday evening to discuss the situation. "I don't think the players were aware of the problems to the extent that they have been," said Collingwood. "Obviously when you get penalised like this, you soon realise that this is a lot more serious.
"From the players' point of view, we have to try and get our heads round it together and try to get the club back to where it should be, which is the top division. I know that sounds ridiculous but we are two wins down already for next year, and to take an emotional hit like this ... I know from my point of view I want to keep fighting for the club through these tough times.
"I can't believe we are in this position. I don't understand how it can go so far down this road for us to be penalised like this, and how it hasn't been picked up and brought into a sustainable business like it should be.
"The fact is that the players are 100% innocent here. The players have fought from the start, time and time again. We get asked to win things, and give our best, and stay in the first division, and that's what the club is all about. In the background, it hasn't been run as efficiently as it should have been.
"The extent of how it has been run has probably been brought across to the players, and unfortunately we are the ones who have to take the brunt of the decision. That's why it's such a kick in the teeth because we know how hard it's been to continue our first-division status with all the strains that have been on our team in the last few years."
Nevertheless, Collingwood remained determined to find positives in a bleak situation. Asked if he feared for the future of cricket in the north-east, he said: "We need first-class cricket, and we still have first-class status. And that to me is the most important thing. Speak to some people, with our financial difficulties being that bad, we should be five leagues down, not just one league down.
"In many ways we are in a good position and can start rebuilding. We can get back to the financial state that we should have been all these years. And actually start to get back into a position that we should be, which is the top division. The talent around the north-east is second to none and I have seen that first-hand. The amount of international cricketers that we produce shows that the north-east is an important part of English cricket.
"I don't think it's the end of the world," he said. "When I first heard about it I did, but in some ways you have to understand that the ECB have given us an opportunity to rebuild and refocus.
"I'd have felt a lot more sympathy for the players if the club had gone down the drain, and all the jobs of the chefs and the waitresses and everyone else had gone too. We all still have jobs and the cricket club is still going forward. It could have been a lot worse, I guess."
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp