Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings has bowed to pressure from multiple states, stepping down on the eve of what was shaping up to be an acrimonious annual general meeting.
CA has installed Richard Freudenstein as interim chair, with the former Foxtel chief executive to oversee Thursday’s AGM.
The governing body hopes to appoint a permanent chair by the end of this year, vowing to undertake a “rigorous process involving input from the state and territory members” as it seeks to restore calm after yet another destabilising episode.
CA’s board released a statement last month, unanimously endorsing Eddings to serve another term as chair despite Cricket NSW and Queensland Cricket both pushing for his 13-year stint as a director to end.
But agitation for change and disgruntlement has since grown at state level and even among some CA directors, especially about Eddings’ purported succession plan.
Rather than make a last-ditch effort to maintain control throughout a vitally-important summer featuring men’s and women’s Ashes series, the Victorian accepted on Wednesday morning that it was time to go.
Eddings, who oversaw the removal of Kevin Roberts as chief executive amid last year’s upheaval, confirmed via a statement that he will not stand for re-election as a director.
“It is my sincere hope that following my resignation the state and territory associations can unite and work together in the best interests of cricket, allowing the focus to return to the sport ahead of the 2021-22 season,” Eddings said.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to be able to serve the sport I love.”
Eddings replaced David Peever as CA chairman in 2018, when his predecessor also resigned after a phone call from Cricket NSW equivalent John Knox.
The interim promotion soon became permanent despite Cricket Victoria raising public objections.
CA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic raised fresh questions about Eddings’ leadership from NSW and Queensland, who successfully pushed back against a cost-cutting drive that included slashing states’ funding.
Roberts’ departure and the Seven Network provided brief public respite from infighting, with the governing body, states and players’ union united in their response to the free-to-air broadcaster’s campaign for a big discount to its rights fees.
But Knox and Chris Simpson, a former state captain who replaced judge Salvatore Vasta as Queensland Cricket boss in 2019, always remained unconvinced about Eddings.
“I would like to extend my thanks to all of those who have worked hard to support the sport, and me personally, during my term as chair,” Eddings said on Wednesday, detailing his pride in the growth of women’s cricket and improved reputation of Australian cricket since the Cape Town cheating scandal.
“My passion for the game is undiminished.”
The state associations, effectively CA’s shareholders, will vote on the re-election of directors Lachlan Henderson and Greg Rowell at Thursday’s AGM.
Speaking to the ABC former cricket captain Ian Chappell said he wanted more cricket experience on the board.
“The lack of cricket knowledge there is alarming,” Chappell said.
“Putting the cricket Australia board together is like picking a cricket team — it’s got to be a combination of things.
“The combination is too much business, marketing and finance.
“You have to have those people there, but you also have to have some people there that understand what it takes to win at the highest level.”