Giles Clarke: 'I am not going to walk away when people start shouting'
The ECB chairman has come under intense fire over the Stanford debacle but he is defiant in his refusal to quit, writes Stephen Brenkley
Wednesday 25 February 2009
Giles Clarke is going nowhere. He will not be resigning, walking away or apologising. In the face of intense criticism, which embraced his decisions and his personality, he remained defiant. Nobody could have looked down their nose so far at the suggestion that he should no longer stay in his job.
The way he put it yesterday was thus. "I'm not going to walk away from something given the nature of some of the people who are shouting at me. I think they are useless people who couldn't run a piss up in a brewery, so why I should deal with that?"
Only days after it seemed that he might, just might, bow to the pressure wrought on English cricket by the Stanford imbroglio, he has been re-elected. Clarke will be the chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board, and effectively the game's front man, for at least the next two years. It promises to be some ride, usually bumpy, always intriguing.
He was on a kind of charm offensive yesterday as he outlined his strategy for the future but he was perfectly clear on one issue. Clarke, right or wrong, is clear on most issues. "I have had a lot of flak," he said. "But I am bothering because I care intensely about this game. There are times when I enjoy this job. I am not going to walk away from anything and I am certainly not going to walk away from something when people start shouting.
"I spoke to all my colleagues in the game, every man-jack of them and told them this is what I'm going to but I'm not going to do it unless you're on side. People have sent me emails and texts and called me in their hundreds."
His two most fierce critics within the game have been Rod Bransgrove, the chairman of Hampshire, and Neil Davidson, the chairman of Leicestershire. But vocal as they were during the recent election they failed to gain much support and Clarke's only opponent, Lord Marland, withdrew with the poll score standing at 14-2 and only two votes left to cast.
Clarke was dismissive. "I am certainly not going to give in to basically two men with megaphones. Messrs Davidson and Bransgrove have just lost an election. I see both of them as flawed individuals."
But last week it seemed that Clarke may not cling on to office when it emerged that Sir Allen Stanford had been charged in the US with a $8bn (£5.5bn) fraud. Investigations continue but his and his company's assets have been frozen and he has surrendered his passport.
This was hugely significant for Clarke and English cricket because he was instrumental in engineering a contract with Stanford which always looked slightly sleazy and ended in tears. The deal was for a Twenty20 match to be played for a winner-takes-all $20m, in Antigua each year, and a quadrangular T20 tournament at Lord's each summer. Both have now been terminated.
Clarke did not exactly demonstrate contrition for entering into this unhappy marriage but he was smart enough to recognise that there had better be no repeat.
"I fully accept there are issues we have to address," he said. "All sport in these rapidly changing times has got to think of 'can they pay, but who are they?' We are already in touch with the government on this issue and will be taking it forward.
"As I have said, there are a number of things that happened during Stanford which, with hindsight, you could say 'gosh, I wish we had done that differently'. There are a whole raft of things in England and Antigua that I do not see recurring. We're looking at our structures, we're looking at our own selves, we will take action where appropriate."
But one matter on which Clarke will not backing down or be diverted from is that of money. Quite simply, his unswerving belief is that the game needs it and it is his duty to get it. "We have a duty to the board to generate as much money as possible," he said. "There's nothing immoral in that. If we don't generate money we don't have the players, we don't have the grounds, we don't have the supporters, we don't have everything. Cricket has been close to serious financial crisis in the past on more than one occasion. That's one of the reasons we're looking at outsiders.
"We have had controversial sponsors before. We clung to tobacco for much longer than anybody else and we did that because we didn't have the confidence to survive without them. That's where we have got to look at this going forward. It's not going to be easy but everything we did we did because it was the right thing to generate money for the game."
Clarke's character is endlessly intriguing. He can be disarmingly charming, but he is also assertive to the point of rudeness. He does not like to be wrong and does not often think he is. He makes swift decisions and lives by them. Stanford was a grave error, even if he cannot quite admit it, but he was at his best in Antigua when the second Test was abandoned after 10 balls.
The efforts of many scores of people were involved in ensuring the game was restarted two days later, but it was Clarke's drive, determination and ability to get things done which provoked such immediate action. You got the feeling that day that he would not take no for an answer.
But he can be abrasive, he can be blunt and some would say he can be downright rude. "My style is not going to change," he said. "I accept I can rub people up the wrong way and that's nothing new in my entire life. In the same way that happens I am fortunate enough to have a large number of supporters and friends."
Clarke is adamant that he is a hands-on chairman but does not involve himself in cricketing matters. It is now a matter of record that before the whole issue became a public spectacle, Kevin Pietersen approached Clarke in Chennai during the First Test and mentioned his problems with the coach Peter Moores. Clarke sent him away. "I told him it was for the cricket management to sort out. Don't come back to me. You have raised the issue, you address it."
But he would have no problem with Pietersen taking over as captain should Andrew Strauss be injured – if that is what the management wanted. That is important because as chairman he has the power of veto and it has been used in the past.
That he loves cricket should not be doubted. He spoke of Stuart Broad is loving terms – "he can do anything he wants" – and there was a genuine sadness in his voice as he recalled his great uncle, a First World War hero. "My great uncle believed that if people loved cricket they had to be completely trustworthy. We've all discovered that isn't completely true." He really is going nowhere.
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