Tom Harrison’s key moments as ECB chief executive
Tom Harrison’s time in charge at the ECB
Tom Harrison’s reign as chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board will end in June after he decided to step down from his role at Lord’s.
Here we look at the key periods and issues that defined his spell in charge.
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Although Harrison had cricket in his blood, having turned out in a handful of county matches for Derbyshire in the 1990s, it was his post-playing career which set him up for the top job.
Having worked in marketing and media rights, as senior vice-president for sports agency IMG and later ESPN Star Sports, he was seen as the perfect man to sell the ECB’s next television deal.
In 2017 he put the finishing touches to a record £1.1billion package covering the 2020-2024 cycle, while also agreeing to restore some live England cricket to free-to-air via the BBC and a modernised approach to digital clips.
Harrison declared that the ECB’s new format, which summarily ditched the concepts of both overs and counties, a success almost two years before the first game was even played but the jury is still out.
The colossal initial investment has played a part in running down previously handsome cash reserves, while those who fear it could be the first step towards phasing out some of the smaller counties refuse to be placated.
After a year’s postponement caused by Covid-19 the 2021 launch season had clear positives, with strong attendance and evidence that new fans were being drawn in and an undeniable boost in profile for the women’s game.
Whether there is collateral damage in the domestic game remains to be seen.
In the early days of the original 2020 lockdown, Harrison described the impact of the pandemic as “the biggest challenge the ECB has faced in its history”.
Not only did the organisation need to keep its marquee international teams up and running, it needed to satisfy broadcasters, persuade touring teams to visit an island that was struggling to keep infection under control and find a way to keep the recreational game’s head above water.
Harrison came across as a safe pair of hands in the crisis, quickly taking a voluntary pay cut and agreeing a funding package for club cricket.
The creation of ‘bio-secure’ bubbles and the willingness of the West Indies and Pakistan to travel amid great uncertainty meant the worst-case scenarios were never realised.
There was an awkward postscript to Harrison’s handling of the pandemic, when it emerged he had accepted a lucrative share of a £2.1million bonus pot based on long-term incentives.
Critics felt it was inappropriate to take the money at a time when the ECB workforce had contracted by 20 per cent, with 62 redundancies forming part of the belt-tightening operation.
The 2022 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack even saw editor Lawrence Booth call for Harrison to return the cash.
The ECB spoke many good words and produced plenty of glossy brochures on the issues of diversity, inclusion and equality over the last seven years.
Yet, when Azeem Rafiq’s revelations about his time at Yorkshire threw the issues of racism and discrimination to the top of the agenda many felt the national governing body came up short in its reaction.
After a dissembling appearance in front of a parliamentary select committee in November, Harrison appeared to be on the brink of being forced out by the first-class counties.
He later accepted the ECB needed to “win back trust” and pledged: “I’m determined to lead this change through cricket. It’s something I feel to my core. I feel very motivated and very supported to make sure that change happens in the game.”
He leaves with the work having just started.