Pigott orchestrates a seaside revolution

David Llewellyn reports on the unrest at Sussex which should come to a head at tonight's annual meeting
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The Independent Online
Sussex may be beside the sea, but the county's cricket is on the rocks and a growing number of members want major changes at the top.

The exodus of half a dozen players and the feeling that the club's administration is not up to scratch has prompted Tony Pigott, the former Sussex bowler, to lead a rebellion which will seek to clear out long-standing committee members, including Ken Hopkins, the recently elected chairman.

A motion of no confidence will be put to a special general meeting on 8 April in Hove Town Hall, but prior to that this evening's annual meeting, in the refurbished splendour of the IRA-bombed Grand Hotel, promises to be a lively affair.

The 38-year-old Pigott, who has given up the post of second-team coach at Surrey in an attempt to salvage the club where his seam bowling accounted for 621 first-class wickets, is confident that he can win enough support before the special meeting to build up the two- thirds majority which would enable him and his supporters to take over.

The club's constitution prohibits a vote tonight, but Pigott, who left the county after 18 years at Hove and joined Surrey in 1994, said: "I have put my head on the block, now it is up to the members. If they want this strongly enough then they must take the opportunity at the AGM to say something."

Hopkins met Pigott on Tuesday and they, in Pigott's words, "agreed to disagree". Hopkins has promised to fight the vote of no confidence and in a letter to members he says: "Such a vote would be disastrous for the club. It would threaten the work that is in progress, [and] put players and staff in a position of uncertainty."

However, Hopkins last night insisted he would welcome fresh faces on the committee. "New blood is always a good thing," he said.

The resignation as chairman of Alan Caffyn at the beginning of the month, after he had heaped blame for much of the county's troubles on the former captain Alan Wells was followed by that of Richard Barrow (now in the Pigott camp). The departures reduced the committee from nine members to seven.

A postal ballot last week saw the former captain Robin Marlar, Jim May, and Dick Holste elected and all three support Pigott. Of the four remaining, Hopkins, the vice-chairman Alan Wadey and Frank Horan are all opposed to the rebels, while the England tour manager, John Barclay, is said to be undecided. Informed sources, however, expect him to come out against Pigott.

When asked if Sussex needed a revolution on top of everything else that has happened in the last year, Pigott replied: "Did Surrey need one two years' ago? The answer is 'Yes'. In Surrey's case the members stood up and were counted. It was amazing how quickly things turned around after that and I believe the same thing could happen at Sussex."

The fact that the club have made a profit in each of the last 10 seasons is clearly not a factor. It is the departure of talented players. "I was sad more than surprised," he said. "I've seen it happen before in 1985, 1986 and 1987, then they lost seven or eight capped players. Sadly it has been allowed to happen again."

Of the six capped players to leave, Ed Giddins was dismissed after being banned by the Test and County Cricket Board for testing positive for cocaine. Jamie Hall was released, while Wells, Ian Salisbury, Danny Law and Speight left for varied reasons.

Hopkins' view is that the departures were due in part to a lack of confidence between the players and the captain, Wells. "I do not subscribe to the view that it is all the captain's fault," he said, "but when you don't play as well as you should you don't win things and that is when things start to go wrong."

Pigott wants to put it right. "I don't believe the communication is very good at Hove, nor the man management. You can push Sussex forward if everyone is working together."

Pigott insists there would be no impetuous moves on the player front. "I don't know about the quality of the playing staff," he said, "but the new committee would not go in and get rid of people. The last thing we need is to lose any more players. It will be like moving house; you don't immediately dig up the garden, you wait to see what is growing there."

TIMETABLE OF TROUBLE FOR SUSSEX ON AND OFF THE FIELD

1996

May: Crash out of B&H Cup after recording a solitary victory over Ireland.

June: First reports of an unnamed Sussex player failing a drugs test.

July: Reports of unnamed player failing second test.

Player named as Ed Giddins.

Giddins then accused of illegal delivery, using left hand, after switching ball from right hand in delivery stride.

Knocked out of NatWest Trophy.

August: Giddins banned by Test and County Cricket Board for 19 months.

First reports of Surrey's interest in Ian Salisbury.

Giddins sacked; Jamie Hall released.

September: Finish 12th in County Championship and 14th in Sunday League.

October: Reported to have reappointed Alan Wells as captain for 1997.

Sack Wells as captain on his return from holiday; Peter Moores appointed.

November: Salisbury signs for Surrey.

Giddins joins Warwickshire.

Danny Law joins Essex

Release Wells.

December: Wells joins Kent.

1997

January: Lose battle to keep Martin Speight registered as a Category I player when Lord's find in player's favour.

Sign leg-spinner Amer Khan.

February: Speight joins Durham.

Jason Lewry discovered to have long-term stress fracture of the back.

Sign Martin Thursfield from Hampshire.

Announce profit for 10th successive season.

Chairman Alan Caffyn criticises Wells and claims his unpopularity as captain was the reason so many players left.

Tony Pigott steps in and makes first moves to marshall membership for revolution.

March: Sign pace bowler Mark Robinson from Yorkshire.

Caffyn resigns.

Committee member Richard Barrow resigns.

SGM set for 8 April.

Robin Marlar, Jim May, Dick Holste elected to committee by postal vote.

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