Watmore, who had an almost as brief period as the managing director of the FA just over a decade ago, is said to have lost the confidence of the ECB and county board of directors after a demanding few weeks that saw England cancel its tour to Pakistan. and a failure to agree on a national timetable for the next two years.
The 63-year-old, who also recently resigned as the first civil service commissioner, is reportedly stepping down altogether. Current ECB vice-president Barry O’Brien will assume the interim presidency, but has indicated to the ECB’s board that he will not be running for the post. Instead, a process to find a successor will begin shortly.
Watmore, the first president to receive a salary for the role (£ 150,000 a year before expenses), could be forgiven for finding the job very different from what he expected. His tenure, which officially began on September 1, 2020, was defined by the battle to stage cricket in a time of Covid and saw the ECB make relatively large layoffs and come under severe financial pressure. In a statement issued by the ECB, Watmore alludes to certain “well-being” concerns – he had a heart problem by the time he left the FA and was reportedly fatigued by the relentless pressure of his stint at the ECB – and admits that the demands of the “taken on” job have a personal impact on him. It is understood that when the question of his future arose he was ready to step aside.
Although initially popular with the counties, who praised his gentle management style after years of more hardy characters like Giles Clarke and Colin Graves, Watmore seems to have lost confidence in recent weeks. It is understood that several counties contacted the ECB to voice their concerns after a meeting of county presidents at Lord’s last week in which it was described as somewhat confused. Several present at the meeting called him “chambolic”. The ECB was also stung by criticism of the decision to cancel the England tour in Pakistan which was taken by the ECB board chaired by Watmore.But while Watmore’s tenure at the ECB is unlikely to be remembered as particularly successful, it has had an impact at the ICC. He was instrumental in the departure of Manu Sawhney as CEO of the organization and provided a crucial boost to the push towards cricket embracing Olympic participation.
It may be relevant, however, that the ICC part of its role took a lot longer than it originally anticipated. And, at a time when the ECB seemed to go from crisis to embarrassment with only brief moments of respite in between, he found himself worn out, jaded and exhausted. Even his detractors admit that he was a decent, well-meaning man who inherited an incredibly difficult situation.
It could also raise questions about the character required for the role. Watmore, a data-driven person who didn’t appreciate the projector, was first greeted as a breath of fresh air after the Graves and Clarke eras. But subsequent events might suggest that their unstoppable self-confidence and determination are prerequisites for the job.
“It is with regret that I leave the presidency of the ECB, but I do so with my own well-being and that of the game I love in mind,” Watmore said in a statement. “I was appointed to this position in a pre-pandemic time, but Covid has meant that the role and its time requirements are drastically different from any of our initial expectations, which has had a personal impact on me. Given this, the board and I believe the ECB will be best served by a new president to take it forward after the pandemic. Leaving now, at the end of the season, gives the board time to find a new president to support cricket through the challenges of the 2022 season and beyond.
“On a personal level, I also retired last month after five years with the Public Service Commission and recently became a grandfather. I would now like to retire from work completely and enjoy our great game as a spectator.