Lt-Col John Stephenson

Former Secretary of the MCC

John Robin Stephenson, soldier and cricket administrator: born Hove, Sussex 25 February 1931; OBE 1976, CBE 1994; Assistant Secretary (Cricket), Marylebone Cricket Club 1979-86, Secretary 1987-93; Secretary, International Cricket Council (formerly International Cricket Conference) 1987-93; President, Forty Club 1994-96; President, Stragglers of Asia CC 1994-2003; married 1962 Karen Koppang (one son, two daughters); died Salisbury, Wiltshire 2 June 2003.

Among the pleasures of arriving early for a big match at Lord's in the late Eighties and early Nineties was watching "the Colonel", the Marylebone Cricket Club Secretary John Stephenson, doing his morning rounds.

Immaculately turned out, he had a cheery word and a broad smile for everyone, be it the MCC Young Cricketer setting up a programme stall, a cantankerous member, an invasive journalist or a lordly committee man. At a time when MCC was still viewed with hostility in many quarters, and Lord's parodied as the preserve of a blimpish élite, Stephenson was the club's welcoming public face. Brian Johnston brought him to national notice with affectionate references on Test Match Special to "the Colonel and his MCC umbrella" every time the Secretary strode to the middle when rain stopped play, as if his presence alone guaranteed play's resumption.

John Stephenson enjoyed a lifelong love affair with cricket, and his success at Lord's derived from the real joy he took from working there. He gave his all to MCC and its contemporaneous responsibility, the International Cricket Council (ICC). In truth, his years there were MCC and cricket's good fortune, which the club's committee recognised by asking him to remain in office for two years beyond the retirement age of 60.

He had gone to Lord's in 1979 as Assistant Secretary (Cricket) after a solid military career and could not have expected further advancement. The current Secretary Jack Bailey, Stephenson's contemporary in the Christ's Hospital XI in the late 1940s - as was the future Somerset and MCC captain Dennis Silk - was only eight months older. But these were turbulent years in the wake of the Packer revolution that shook cricket's establishment. The complacent co-existence that had existed between MCC and the professional counties, as represented by the Test and County Cricket Board, was disintegrating. Bailey, fighting to uphold MCC's rights and privileges, fell victim to the internecine warfare and resigned in 1987.

This was MCC's bicentenary year and had been billed as a showpiece. It could have been a disaster. The members, many outraged at Bailey's departure, refused to accept the club's accounts at the AGM and there were calls for the President, Colin Cowdrey, to resign. Cowdrey was later forced to miss the bicentenary celebrations following a heart bypass operation and, as if to over-egg the pudding, the marquee for the bicentenary ball was brought down by a gale. Stephenson took it all in his military stride and MCC triumphed.

His years as an essentially peacetime army officer had left him well versed in the role of peacemaker, and he provided natural charm, diplomacy and tact when Lord's needed them most. He was no martinet, but he was a stickler for protocol when he believed it mattered. At the same time he could be highly amused when his backpacking soldier son appeared in the ground on the morning of a Test match, having talked his way past the generally impenetrable Lord's gatemen.

You instinctively felt that John Stephenson's values were the right ones. After a Newsnight appearance to discuss the Mike Gatting/ Shakoor Rana spat in 1987, I was gratified the following evening at Lord's to feel his hand on my shoulder and hear a softly spoken "Well said". We were both relatively "new boys" in our respective roles (I had been appointed Editor of Wisden the year before) and he understood what a few words of encouragement meant.

Man management was his strong point, first in the Army and later at Lord's. The ground has a large staff and gaining their affection was no mean feat. It probably helped that he still looked like the rugby forward he had been in younger days. You wouldn't want to mess with him, and one felt almost a degree of sympathy for the Nairobi customs official who tried in vain to extract a bribe before allowing the players' baggage on a plane during an MCC tour Stephenson was managing.

From Christ's Hospital, Horsham, he had entered the RMA at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1951, going on to serve in Egypt, Korea, Gibraltar, Libya, Germany and Northern Ireland. He was an instructor at Mons Officer Cadet School from 1958 to 1960, an Infantry Representative at the School of Signals from 1968 to 1970, and from 1973 to 1975 commanded the 5th Battalion the Queen's Regiment. He was appointed military OBE in 1976.

John Stephenson was especially blessed in his marriage in 1962 to Karen Koppang, whose Norwegian good sense made sure there was never any side to him. An invitation to the Secretary's box, always an honour, was a special treat when Karen and John ran it, particularly if the Stephenson daughters added their particular charms. Retirement did not come easily to a man of action like John but he gave his time in an honorary capacity to a number of grateful organisations before succumbing to a rare virus that attacked his spine.

Graeme Wright

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness