The England & Wales Cricket Board says it will investigate claims that Ian Watmore, its incoming chairman, left his previous role with the English Football League following allegations of misconduct.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Watmore had been involved in discussions over a breakaway league that could have jeopardised a £595 million broadcast deal with Sky Sports. The report also claimed he left his role, citing ill health, the week after the EFL had announced an independent inquiry.
Seeing as Sky are the ECB’s senior broadcast partner, and in the first year of a new five-year deal that will be worth £1.1 billion until 2024, the issue is likely to cause disquiet at board level, where Watmore still needs to be ratified at the AGM on May 13.
Watmore was appointed as Colin Graves’ successor in November 2019, 12 months after his departure from the EFL. In addition to being a senior civil servant, he had previously held roles with the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the English Institute of Sport, and oversaw the launch of the Women’s Super League and the St George’s Park project during his time at the FA.
“Ian Watmore was appointed following a rigorous search and selection process, led by global executive search firm Odger Berndtson and a dedicated nominations committee chaired by ECB non-executive director Lucy Pearson,” said an ECB spokesperson.
“The ECB board is aware of the claims made against Ian and will seek to review and understand the situation.”
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Watmore insisted his actions, which centred around discussions with the Derby County owner Mel Morris, had been an attempt to resolve an ongoing impasse over the TV deal, and reiterated his resignation had been due to a long-standing heart condition.
“I became chair of the EFL commercial committee in 2018 and inherited a difficult contract situation over the new TV deal, which had been developing over the previous year,” Watmore said.
“The League was split down the middle over the deal and I sought discussions with a leading representative to explore ways we could overcome this impasse. That meeting, and conversations within it, were shared with the board and executive colleagues at the time.
“In the event, all work to bring the deal to a successful outcome was delivered on, when it was signed after a unanimous vote by the EFL board on which I sat. My resignation from the EFL role was taken after medical advice in November 2018. Since then, I have willingly participated in reviews by the EFL into the overall rights sale process and my role within it.
“During my short period at the organisation I operated with honesty and integrity and until today I have not heard any reports from the EFL that their view is any different.”