THE Surrey managing director Gus Mackay has acknowledged there is a gap between his county and the clubs, but he feels he was misunderstood during the recent chaotic league dinner at Sandown Park.
Mackay, cricket director Chris Adams and coach Ian Salisbury attended the Surrey Championship dinner at Sandown with all good intentions. When they stood up to face questions, hoping to reassure their audience that a new era was dawning at Surrey, the evening had already deteriorated. Master of ceremonies Henry Kelly had arrived an hour late and had lost control. Anger at his behaviour was sweeping through the room, and Mackay’s attempts to bring order only drew accusations of arrogance.
The good impression that Mackay and his colleagues wanted to give became lost in the clamour. Their views were never properly heard that evening, and the apology the trio received afterwards from the dinner organisers was scant consolation.
Looking back at that night, memorable for all the wrong reasons, Mackay said he hoping to convince the room that the county wanted to strengthen links with their clubs. Much support work had been achieved already and the present management were determined to close a gap that had been widening. “Unfortunately much has gone on in the past and as a county we know we have work to do to win the clubs over,” he said.
“We have worked closely with 36 clubs on club marque accreditation and development plans, and a further 17 are going through the process. We are working towards helping the balance of clubs,” he said, “but unfortunately, by the look of it, the information about the work we are doing with those clubs to help develop their facilities and improve what they are trying to do is not getting out there.”
Mackay was accused afterwards of strutting the stage and behaving arrogantly by refusing to answer questions from the floor, but Mackay denied this. He said: “We were trying to calm the audience down, which was pretty well fuelled, because I suppose they had been annoyed by the way the MC had gone about his duties. There was no way we were arrogant. We were just trying to get a message across.
“When you are standing up there getting questions that haven’t come through the proper channel — written down on paper — and you have people asking questions that aren’t really for the forum, it just wasn’t the right time. In fact we were very open to questions. When an audience is dissatisfied, it is very difficult to claw things back.”
One of the non-written questions fired at Mackay concerned the sacking of community coaches while the county club had big-spending plans on the playing front, an issue he did not address that evening. He said: “The development side has a completely different budget to the professional. The outside funding from the Government for community coaches was no longer available for whatever reason. The contracts of the community coaches simply came to an end, but we are trying to resolve this. We are working to try and continue with our programme, and I’m confident we will come up with a structure that will be better than before. The money we spend on development is over £1 million.
“I acknowledge there is a bit of ‘history’ here that we have to change. We can either say we are not going to do any more and close the door, but we are here to promote and develop the game. That’s why we are here, why I am in place at Surrey — very much to go out and make sure we bridge the gap between the county and our clubs for the development of the English game, because they are a source of talent for us.
“In the next 12 months we are going to find out what are the key issues the clubs have problems with and try and deal with those. Once, as a professional club, we get back to winning ways that will help, and we’ve got be proactive with our communications and work a lot more closely with the clubs.”
Surrey might have had ambitious plans to strengthen the first team, but not much money was actually spent. “The professional budget is not going up,” Mackay said. “We have released eight players and only signed three. So if anything the budget is going down.”
But one interesting turn-up in the 2009 summer was the success of Surrey’s second team in winning their county championship. “We took a policy decision to play home-grown talent, and at least threequarters of the side was just that,” Mackay said. “That’s an important thing. A couple of guys came in from outside on trial, but the majority were players who had come through our system. We can build something out of that, but it’ll take time. We know that.”
CHARLIE SAYS: This ‘home-grown’ policy for the second team provided some welcome evidence that Surrey were achieving a transparent progression for club players in the region, and if Surrey can keep a development structure for the recreational game properly funded, Mackay’s aim to improve the relationship between county and club should succeed.
Just don’t mention the name Henry Kelly.