David Leatherdale is expected to resume his role as chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) within days. His return comes at a time when the players’ union faces a number of pressing issues, not lease about its response to the ECB’s proposed 100-ball concept for 2020.
Leatherdale was forced to step back from his position in February, having struggled with stress in the aftermath of a heavy workload and family health problems. But now, having had just over three months away from the game, Leatherdale is poised to go back to work. While no date has yet been put on that return, it is possible it will be as early as next week. If not, the PCA are hopeful it will be the following week. He is expected to start with a day a week and slowly build-up his workload.
Leatherdale’s return will be warmly greeted. Not only will there be relief that a well-known figure in the game is firmly on the road to recovery, but he has been much missed in his absence. At a time of great flux in the game, the PCA has been criticised in some circles for failing to support its members as vociferously as it might have done in the past, and for the closeness of its relationship with the ECB. The union’s founder, Fred Rumsey, recently told ESPNcricinfo that he wondered if the organisation was “doing enough to look after the interests of players”.
In Leatherdale’s absence – and with the position of deputy chief executive having been abandoned with the departure of Jason Ratcliffe 18 months ago – the organisation’s two chairmen, Daryl Mitchell and Matthew Wheeler, have assumed his responsibilities. But both have had to combine their PCA work with other roles: Mitchell is a senior player with Worcestershire and Wheeler fronts a couple of companies involved in sports marketing.
Foremost among the issues likely to confront Leatherdale on his return is his members’ apparent opposition to “The Hundred” and an increasing realisation from players that the new competition will involve a relatively small number of them.
A new pay deal for centrally contracted England players is also on the agenda, while the PCA has just learned that the County Partnership Agreements (CPA) with counties – the agreement that includes salary cap levels, minimum salary levels and performance related fee payments among many other things – for the period 2020 to 2024 will not be finalised by the ECB until the autumn. That makes it hard for counties and players to agree the value of contracts beyond the end of the 2019 season.
But it is discussions around “The Hundred” that may remain most contentious. A sizeable number of players remain unconvinced by the format, underwhelmed by the manner in which information has been divulged to them by the ECB and unhappy that the current PCA executive is either not inclined or not able to mount any meaningful resistance.
There was talk of a vote of no confidence in the current PCA leadership a couple of weeks ago – a move that failed to gain enough support to progress – while it is understood the ECB’s chief executive, Tom Harrison, was given a torrid time at the recent meeting with the players. His insistence that the new competition was only “a concept” at this stage appears to have been contradicted by his chairman, Colin Graves, stating it was “set in stone”.
All of which is likely to leave Leatherdale with plenty on his plate upon his return.