Cricket Victoria vote will have Cricket Australia implications

Cricket Australia is currently trying to forge a path through a grants dispute with New South Wales and Queensland Getty Images

State-based calls for governance reform at Cricket Australia may gain or lose impetus depending on the outcome of the Cricket Victoria board elections, set to be contested by four candidates for two spots in Melbourne at the end of this month.

The successful election of Premier Club-aligned duo of Simon Tobin (ex-Essendon president) and Amanda Bond (a KPMG partner backed by Northcote Cricket Club) would potentially result in the replacement of the current Cricket Victoria chair Paul Barker with the former WACA delegate Peter Williams, a long-time adversary of CA's independent board and its chairman Earl Eddings.

Two alternative candidates, the former Dandenong Cricket Cub president Ross Hepburn and the women's Premier panel chair Penelope Cleghorn, have submitted their intentions to contest the Cricket Victoria board election in the past week. Hepburn and Cleghorn are both well-liked within Victorian cricket circles, in contrast to Tobin who has been a more polarising figure.

Should Williams not gain the chair, it is likely to fall to David Maddocks, a partner in Perry Maddocks Trollope Lawyers and the former president of North Melbourne Cricket Club before it merged successfully to become part of the Greenvale Kangaroos club. Eddings, who has another year to serve as CA chairman as part of his current term, also has deep links to the North Melbourne/Greenvale club and preceded Maddocks as its president.

Eddings only retained his place as chairman of CA in 2019 by moving from his place as the Cricket Victoria-nominated director to one of the three places reserved for independents on the CA board after his home state withdrew its support. Eddings' role was subsequently taken up by former Australia Women's cricketer Mel Jones.

Both Hepburn and Cleghorn represent areas that were subject to vicious staff and funding cutbacks earlier this year when Cricket Victoria announced savings measures under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, slashing resources to community, women's and junior cricket while not touching the annual distributions to premier clubs. These decisions have been styled as grounds for Melbourne Premier Clubs to question the leadership of Barker and the Cricket Victoria chief executive Andrew Ingleton, when it is all other areas of Victorian cricket that have suffered most grievously as a result.

CA is currently trying to forge a path through a grants dispute with New South Wales and Queensland, with all states to have their annual funding altered on the same basis of terms that are ultimately agreed. However, the state associations have made their interest in wider governance change known, most pointedly in the words of the Queensland Cricket chairman Chris Simpson, a close ally of the NSW chairman John Knox.

The most likely change would be to a system of six directors directly representing each state, with three independents. Such a change would require the support of five of the six states and would occupy a lengthy and laborious reform process, as was the case when the board moved from a system of 14 state representative directors to nine independents in 2012.

"For all of its wealth and associated power, CA needs to be seen as more of a partner in the development of the game - rather than its master," Simpson wrote to Queensland Cricket stakeholders in June. "Until we are able to achieve this, states will simply be told what to do from Jolimont Street and that's exactly not the way to run cricket."

Tobin was previously part of the "new six" ticket, championed by the Footscray Cricket Club president Geoff Collinson who attempted to join the Cricket Victoria board en masse in 2017, largely in protest at the Victorian board's attempts to change the association's constitution to reduce the influence of Premier Cricket Clubs on electing board directors. The competition currently holds 18 of a possible 25 delegate votes at each election of the six elected board members - three are appointed independents.

Among other elements of community cricket, the Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association has two votes, Women's Premier cricket three, and the Victorian Country Cricket League and Victorian Metropolitan Cricket Union one apiece.

While the attempt to force all six candidates onto the board at once was unsuccessful, a slower process of elimination has seen Williams joined by other "new six" members Phil Hyde and Jane Nathan. The looming retirements of Paul Jackson and Claudia Fatone from the board have created room for Tobin and Bond to attempt to join them and form a voting majority.