Hopkins' exit puts Sussex in limbo

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The Independent Online
Cricket

DAVID LLEWELLYN

Ken Hopkins, the Sussex chairman, resigned his position then changed his mind at a stormy and confused AGM at Brighton's Grand Hotel last night.

By the end, the club was left with the skeleton of a new committee but constitutionally confused. What was clear was that the night was a clear victory for the club's new order, which remains determined to take it into the future.

A special general meeting, called by the county's former fast bowler Tony Pigott and his supporters, is still scheduled for 8 April at Hove Town Hall although whether it will now be held - and last night's meeting clearly felt that staging it would result in a waste of time and money - is still unknown.

But the old guard has gone, or rather it nearly has. Hopkins, the chairman of two weeks following the resignation of Alan Caffyn, originally agreed to resign along with the other three members of the old guard, once the mood of the meeting had made it clear that they would tolerate nothing less.

But once the club's legal adviser, the solicitor Mike Long, had pointed out that the constitution required four elected members plus one officer in order to run affairs without being unconstitutional, there was a change of heart. They had the three newly elected members - the former captain Robin Marlar, Jim May and Dick Holste - plus the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, who was re-elected president to serve as the officer, so the floor agreed to let Hopkins remain on the committee temporarily.

Then confusion set in with the meeting agreeing to change the constitution and reduce the quorum to three committee members and one officer. But once the meeting had closed after more than two hours of heated and at times vitriolic debate, it was still unclear whether Hopkins was on or off the committee. Even he was confused.

It was eventually established that he was withholding his resignation in case the committee needed to call on him but that he would not be sitting on it.

Overall the night was a triumph for Pigott who clearly wants to become involved in the day-to-day running of a club with whom he spent 18 years before moving to Surrey a couple of years ago.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome," Pigott said. "It's all about the members. Just by turning up in droves as they did tonight they showed they care about the future of Sussex." Pigott would not say whether he would stand for election to the committee, or instead opt for a post of chief executive or its equivalent, but he has promised a decision soon.

At the start of the meeting none of the four committee members was prepared to resign despite plenty of encouragement to do so. But once Frank Horan had aroused the passions of the assembled numbers, the outcome became inevitable. Horan had incensed the members when he referred to Pigott and his supporters as "rabble-rousers".

After some heated exchanges, Horan made a premature and dramatic exit, storming off the stage with the words: "You're very welcome to get on without me. Goodnight to you all!"

An unhappy day for Sussex had begun with the revelation that the county secretary, Nigel Bett, was pictured in the latest edition of British Naturism.

It ended with the vice chairman, Alan Wadey, accepting the inevitable and undertaking on behalf of himself, John Barclay and Hopkins to step down once the business of the meeting had been concluded. Hopkins had earlier revealed that Bett had been given two weeks leave of absence, adding that the secretary had submitted a sick note, all of which indicated that his days in office may also be numbered.

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