Thursday, 28 February 2008

Full AGM Report

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the resolution to amend the rules of the club was passed at the AGM. The full story would be that the motion was passed with votes of; 645 for, 90 against with about 4,200 abstentions. (!)

The following presentations were made:

The batting award for last season went to Darren Maddy and
The allrounder award went to Tim Ambrose (not present).

Dougie Brown was given a warm round of applause in recognition of the service he has given the club, and looked slightly uncomfortable with all the attention.

I picked up on the following points;

By looking through the club annual report and deducting the "shop overheads" and the "shop cost of sales" from the "shop sales" you get a total for 2006 of£38,483. For 2007 that figure is £4,853. This seems shockingly low to me, and shows a 35% drop in sales, whilst in the same time costs rose by 14%. However you mess with the figures however, a sub-£5000 retail (gross) profit, that has such a level of footfall past (and through) its doors is a shocking performance. I expect the club would say this is due to a change in stock, refits, etc, but I would therefore expect to see a much improved performance this year.

I will deal with the stadium, ground plans and international staging agreements in a later post, along with the attached increase in borrowing powers in the new rules, as this all seems to fit together into one overall issue.

Neil Houghton (Chairman) mentioned one interesting point about the appointment of Giles. He admitted in his speech that they wanted to appoint a successor to Greatbatch as soon as possible and preferably before the players went on their winter break. This contrasts quite sharply with Povey's statements at the time that the club would take their time to find the right candidate.

The Treasurer, SG Mills, made an entertaining speech, given that he was presenting the accounts. Apart from some bizarre comment about wanting to play playstation with a U-15 girls team award winner called Laura Croft, which he opened with to general confusion. He said the club are aiming for a £500k operating profit this year and confirmed that last year there was a significant increase in expenses due to the new offices installed and the increase in marketing and PR (+24%), which he explained as investments in the future.
He went onto to make a couple of entertaining statements, that he was at pains to point out were his own and not the clubs. He predicted that within the next 3-5 years a county club would go into administration and predicted that it would be one of the ones pouring money into improving the ground chasing the international cricket bounty. He did emphasise his own ambition but also financial prudence and said it would not be Warwickshire. He also said that the media and not the ECB runs English cricket!

Chris Tickle then took the podium to explain some of the rule changes and was at pains to point out that most of the changes were to add a practical and flexible approach to the management and day-to-day running of the club. He did also mention one thing that struck me, but was hidden away somewhat, and that was the potential for the club to operate through other structures, such as subsidiaries and joint ventures. This got me thinking about whether they plan to involve a joint venture in the building of the new stadium.

While the votes were counted Ashley Giles gave a speech on the upcoming season that was quote-a-rific. He appeared relaxed and was his usual candid self, but there did seem to be a bit of nervousness about him. He began in typical Giles fashion; "I'm not perfect, I make mistakes and I'm sure I'll make some this summer."
He went onto say, "the team had been slack in some areas over the past 2 years and in some basic disciplines". "Hard work is key..I want this to be the fittest team in the country..and have already seen a big change in attitude and fitness". He stated his belief that hard work and success will bring enjoyment back into the team and the supporters.
On the season's targets he said; "we want to get back to where we belong, we are aiming to get back into the top flight this year..I can't promise this will happen but it is the aim". He finished by assuring members that his England selectors job is subordinate to his role at Edgbaston and will not get in the way.

Colin Povey then finished up the speeches for the evening in his usual style. He has the ability to not be especially boring but talks in such a way that you find yourself drifting off while talk of "value streams" and "partnerships" washes over you. I have to confess I was writing down notes, but fighting the urge to join the member next to me in having a quiet nap while he talked.

As I said I will wrap up his speech on the ground plans and the related bits the rest of the panel talked about in another post.

There was just time for some questions, including one insightful guy, who spoke for 5 minutes, where his only question, which he pointed out he felt he had asked at the members forum in November and hadn't been answered then (shock!) - 'when Dale Steyn was with us he took a lot of wickets, when he left we didn't take a lot of wickets. Did Colin Povey think that when Dale Steyn left we stopped taking wickets and were not as good?' Now I might not have got all the nuances in this Machiavellian logic train, so apologies from my clumsy treatment of such an insight. I don't like Povey but he could have beat this man to death with a microphone and claimed the hand of Darwin.


Wednesday, 27 February 2008

AGM report

I'm a bit knackered to put in a full post on this at the moment. But the main news is that the amended constitution was passed by 647 votes to 90, meaning the club can now borrow up to £20m.

I've got a full report brewing, with quotes, reports on the plan for developing the ground, as well as some juicy conspiracy theories based on some things that were said, and some interesting (well relatively) points that I have found from digging around in the annual accounts statement and some other bits and bobs.

At the moment however I seem to have lost the ability to spell, and it is only the wonderful firefox browser I've got with inbuilt dictionary that has made this post legible. (which to be fair is true for most of my posts; but delevolping? what on earth is that?)

More on this story tomorrow. Or the next day.....


Tuesday, 26 February 2008


I've been pondering what my position should be in regards to the AGM and specifically the special resolution to amend the club constitution which will be put to the vote at it. Its a tough choice and I think George Dobell in the Post has summed it up pretty well as a hobson's choice.

The clause in question in the "new rules" is 3.2.2. If I am reading it right it gives the club the ability to take out up to £20m of debt at an interest rate of no more that base rate +3% for unsecured debt (or such greater sum or rate as the committee shall determine from time to time). I believe (but I am no legal expert) that the committee would have to amend the rules again, if they want to go above the £20m limit, and that that particular note about "or such greater sum.." only gives them the power to easily do so.

The clause in itself is neither unusual or anything particularly untoward, the only issue that arises is whether the membership trusts the current administration with these extra powers. I think for the sake of the future of the club as one of the premier international grounds on the county circuit the membership will have to vote for this amendment. I don't necessarily believe the scare stories that Edgbaston is currently in danger of losing international cricket altogether, however I do feel the ground needs improvement and the increase in borrowing power is probably vital to achieve this.

Given the way that voting works on this amendment, in that a 2/3 majority is needed to carry the motion, (with abstentions not counting towards the total number of votes) means the only realistic way the motion will not be carried is by an organised campaign against it. I have not heard of such a campaign and I don't believe that any last minute rallying call at the meeting itself could succeed; most people will have made their minds up before attending.

In a way the timing of the AGM could not have been better for the management. The events of last season and the ill will they generated among the members has been partially swept away by the optimism of a new coaching team. We have also not seen how this new set-up will deliver, so members are still in a sort of extended honeymoon period. The new season is also just around the corner and people are probably believing anything is possible. I would venture a guess that the overall "morale" among members is probably higher than it has been for 6-9 months. And this is good news for the chance of the motion passing.

The concern must remain however that the current leadership team at Edgbaston has not really delivered demonstrable success in anything it has tried to achieve so far, and the thought of £20m of debt is something none of the members will feel especially comfortable about. The voting decision remains one where there is no comfortable path for the members, faced with either slow decline or a gamble on the financial prudence of Mr Povey and his team, neither of which is especially appealing. Perhaps I am cautious having spoken to a friend who visited Elland Road at the weekend and reported on a crumbling stadium where they cannot afford to turn on the electronic scoreboard. I think however we have to make a leap of faith.

The Raggybear will either be voting "yes" or abstaining. I will not be voting against this motion as I do not believe that my vote would then be in the best interests of the club.

I am hopeful of attending the meeting in person, although I have a meeting in London, so will be in the unusual position of wearing a suit. I hope people don't mistake me for a member of the executive club.


Sunday, 24 February 2008

An Old mind trapped in a young head ponders the IPL

Abstract: IPL - load of gimmick based rubbish or not? I ponder the question, decide yes and put forward the theory no-one outside India will actually care about the games. (- There you go Tim)

First up I have to confess that this post is slightly off track for me, being as it doesn't directly relate to The Bears. However being as every other journo and bar-propping theorist is espousing views on the Indian Premier League and the future of cricket I thought it would be remiss of me not to take up the baton myself.

Firstly I want to pose the rhetorical question; "How can the only one of something be the "premier"? Surely there needs to be at least one other lesser league in order that the top one can benefit from any denomination at all. Expect to see the ICC cotton onto this marketing wheeze for the "Premier World Cup of Cricket".

Leaving aside grammatical pedantry for a minute (hard as it is for me), I have some other things that are thoroughly confusing me about this new cricketing phenomena.

The first is the players themselves. It appears that each franchise can 'hold registrations' for up to 8 international players, playing up to 4 of them at any one time. Some of these 'internationals' are current members of the Indian national side, which further confuses me. The thing I really can't get my head around is that currently each franchise has bid for the services of their internationals for a period of three years, presumably having already "bought" them they are committed to paying their wages regardless of injury/loss of form etc. So there doesn't seem to be any scope for introducing new players over the next three years, short of paying off players and sacking them. This seems to be a bizarre oversight on the part of the organisers and I have been searching in vain for something in the rules summarises on the internet to explain it.

I am not going to touch on the player valuations in the auction, because I believe the franchises are trying to make back money first and foremost, and with this in mind have, I believe, thought along football lines and bought, or at least paid for some players on the strength of merchandising sales.

I have been quite interested to read all the articles in the press about how this is a day that changed cricket and to a certain extent I can see what they mean, however a lot of the logic in the pieces talking about the demise of the international game just doesn't stack up. For example:

The week that changed cricket forever

Firstly I feel comparisons with Kerry Packers World Series and with the English football premier league are largely erroneous. The format seems to have a lot more in common with American sports, particularly American Football. World Series Cricket, whatever your feelings on it, was largely based on a moral and financial debate around TV rights, Packer had a clear agenda and that was that by hook or crook he would have international cricket on his TV station. Although he wanted it in order to make money, he had a clear objective.

The English Premier League in contrast is built upon years of tradition, particularly within its participant "franchises". One of the reasons it succeeds overseas is because there are many long-term fans who associate with the teams in question and their history. It is also in a format which grows and develops over 3/4 of the year, feeding people's interest in the developing drama. It is also relatively simple to understand and a single game can, and often does, turn in the space of a few minutes (or seconds).

American Football conversely is harder to understand for the casual observer, is over a much shorter season and is played in few countries, and historically, despite sustained marketing has never successfully caught on outside of its traditional catchment.

Fundamentally I don't feel that this format and idea has the legs to kill off the international game. And I am not convinced it will even catch on with spectators outside of India. The games are scheduled for 9.30 and 14.30 GMT, which is not going to get English or African fans watching, this is late evening and the middle of the night conversely in Australia, which is also unhelpful for them. It is therefore unlikely to gain much live watching interest outside of India, Pakistan and the UAE.

I think if anything what the IPL could spell is the end for is 50-over cricket in general. I believe if India (by this I mean the BCCI and the public) grow lukewarm on the 50 over format we could well see a switch to a couple of 50 over games (if any) on all tours and a full 20-20 series. Over the past few years I would say India and Australia have been the strongest advocates of the 50 over game, Australia have already scrapped the traditional CB Series 50-over-fest, in favour of shorter bilateral OD series and if India shift their support to 20-20 it could see a different "limited overs" game being played primarily. The seeds of popularity having been sown with India's triumph in the 20-20 World Cup (In a similar way that their triumph in a 1970's 60 over version sparked interest in the format at home). This might also (if we're lucky) kill off the woeful Pro40 league on the county circuit.

International cricket may well have to adapt and introduce a window for this tournament to prevent any conflicts, but I just can't see a mass exodus of top international talent to it.

I see the future of this tournament as shoddy cricket being played purely for money making and marketing reasons. Unless they can double, or even treble the number of franchises and matches I can't see it replacing, or even overtaking international cricket. It feels to me a lot more like ITV Digital and the football league than BSkyB and the Premiership.


Friday, 22 February 2008

Pollock deal off

It was confirmed earlier in the week that Warwickshire have terminated their interest in signing Shuan Pollock for the forthcoming season. It was felt that his commitments in the IPL would mean he would only be available for the latter half of the season. This follows on from news a few weeks ago that Shane Warne would not be playing for Hampshire until July or August due to IPL and other personal commitments.


Monday, 11 February 2008

Injury Update

Ian Westwood has a broken thumb, suffered in a nets session with the bowling machine. He will be out of action for around 4-6 weeks, but may, depending on the nature of the break be out for up to 12 weeks (missing the start of the season).

Boyd Rankin continues to make good progress with his stress fracture and should soon start full training again.


Friday, 1 February 2008

Pre-Season tour cancelled

Firstly before I comment on this news it is worth saying that Colin Povey has recommended any supporters who have booked trips to Grenada with the intention of watching the team should contact him without delay.

Now onto some thoughts. This is being portrayed by the club as a cricketing decision, based on the fact that the players did not perform last season, so do not deserve an overseas jaunt as a "reward" before they have earned it. It is possibly signs of a harder line being taken by the club. It has also been stated by the club that it is nothing to do with the record financial loss last year, or the upcoming need to finance the ground development. Although when the trip was planned quite a while ago and was planning to depart on 13th March, it seems a strange time to make the decision. It is also worth pointing out that Giles himself announced the plans for this tour back in November, this is not a hang over from the old regime. So I am not sure we can say it is signs of a harder line to plan a preseason tour 8 weeks after the team have performed dismally, only to cancel it 8 weeks before they are due to fly out.

However I have two points to make, firstly that I feel it is shocking that the Birmingham Post and a part-time blog are ahead of the club's website on news of this magnitude for supporters who may have booked to travel abroad. This is another example of poor communication on the part of the club. There is nothing at all on the official site.

Secondly (and you may know I love a good conspiracy theory), I have found an article on the club website from earlier in January stating "..if you want to take either of these trips [to Belfast or Grenada] with the Bears this season we will need payment and details by the closing date of Friday 25th January. To secure your places please email David Bunce by the date above. Obviously if we do not reach the minimum number of passengers the tours will have to be cancelled. The players would love your support so book now and travel in style with the Bears".
Now it seems to me a very big coincedence that the week following the deadline where they are saying if they don't have enough people signing up to the supporter packages they will have to cancel the supporter tour, they have in fact cancelled the entire tour.

I guess the last thing to say that is although the players will not be going to Grenada with the club, the following have all been away playing cricket (that I know of) this winter:
Bell (England - Sri Lanka & New Zealand), Trott (Lions - India), Ambrose (England - New Zealand), Maddy (Hong Kong Sixes, ICL), Zondeki (South Africa - he lives there!), Macleod & Miller (Australia Grade Cricket), Rankin (ICL), Woakes (England U-19, Sri Lanka, Malaysia). I'm not saying any of these players haven't deserved these trips at all, but we must be careful not be make the mistake of assuming by cancelling the tour the club have condemned all its players to a full rainy offseason in the West Midlands!