England cricket boss quits after tour debacle

The top official in English cricket quit on Thursday, saying the decision was taken for his wellbeing because the demands of the job during the coronavirus pandemic have “taken a personal toll on me.”

Ian Watmore has stepped down as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board after serving barely a year in a role in which he was appointed to work two days per week.

It proved to be a turbulent period for the ECB, though, mainly because of the effects of the pandemic, which has hit the sport’s finances hard and led to major structural and logistical changes in the game.

The announcement of the departure of Watmore, whose previous jobs included being chief executive of the English Football Association, came a day before England was to announce whether its players will travel to Australia for the Ashes series scheduled for December and January, amid concerns about pandemic-related restrictions in place Down Under.

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Less than three weeks ago, the ECB withdrew its men’s and women’s teams from a short tour of Pakistan planned for this month, a unilateral decision not based on security grounds even if the governing body cited increased concerns about travelling to the region. That has created a schism in world cricket, with Pakistan angry that its willingness to tour the “western bloc” isn’t being reciprocated.

Watmore hasn’t commented publicly since the decision to pull out of the Pakistan tours was made.

The ECB said Watmore was leaving his position immediately in a mutually agreed move taken following the completion of the domestic season, which contained the inaugural season of a controversial new competition, The Hundred.

“It is with regret that I step down as chair of the ECB, but I do so in mindfulness of my own wellbeing and that of the game which I love,” Watmore said. “I was appointed to the post in a pre-pandemic era, but COVID has meant the role and its demands on time are dramatically different to all our original expectations, which has taken a personal toll on me.

“Given this, the board and I feel the ECB will be better served by a new chair to take it forward post pandemic.”

Watmore had signed a five-year contract with the ECB.

ECB deputy chairman Barry O’Brien will replace Watmore on an interim basis while a successor is found.

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