Cricket: `We're in the biggest mess ever' says Botham

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The Independent Online
The former England captain Ian Botham led a chorus of disapproval in response to the decison by the chairmen of the first-class counties to reject Lord MacLaurin's proposals for restructuring the county game, and not to embrace a two-division championship involving promotion and relegation.

"It's a terrible day for English cricket," Botham said. "The people who have made this decision I can only think have made it for their own clubs. What's going to happen is there's going to be a breakaway of maybe eight of the top sides - possibly the seven or eight who wanted to play two divisions.

"I think we're in the biggest mess we've been in. We had the chance to put it right. But these people live in their little ivory towers.The biggest problem is that they think that the game is for the members. It's not. It's for the whole country."

Matthew Fleming, the Kent all-rounder and chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said: "I am disappointed. When the PCA did a questionaire of all the players, 75 per cent of them voted for a two divisional championship and as such I have to say this is a decision which fudges the issue. There is a lot of momentum and now is the time to change. I didn't think there was an option for no change and as far as I am concerned this is no change."

Jim Cumbes, Lancashire's acting chief executive, said: "As a club who has supported two divisions, we were very disappointed with the vote. We thought there was everything to gain and nothing to lose by going for two divisions to make the game more competitive and of more interest. It's disappointing to say the least that we have not made any progress."