Sir Ian Botham has called for the ECB to offer greater rewards to counties producing first-class players through their academy system after Durham’s NatWest Blast captain Paul Coughlin rejected a new contract and opted to join Nottinghamshire.
Botham did not rule out support for a football-style transfer system if satisfactory compensation figures could not be agreed.
He also lambasted directors of cricket who also serve as England selectors – putting Nottinghamshire, where Mick Newell fulfils such a role, in direct line of fire.
Coughlin, a combative allrounder, joins a Nottinghamshire side that has won both limited-overs trophies and is poised to return to the first division of the Specsavers Championship.
Durham say they “made a substantial offer to keep his services”, but that he has decided to accept an offer elsewhere.
“It was an extremely tough decision to leave Durham, but I am very excited about joining Nottinghamshire and playing at Trent Bridge,” said Coughlin. “It is a fantastic opportunity to continue my development and I look forward to working with Peter Moores and his coaching staff.”
Coughlin, born in Sunderland, came through the Durham Academy, making his first-class debut against Australia A in 2012 as a 19-year-old and has since made 29 appearances in that format. He took over as captain of the T20 side this season.
Newell, unabashed at Notts’ transfer success, said: “We see Paul as someone who can be influential for us in all forms of cricket and fits the type of cricketer that we want to sign.
“He is a dynamic fielder, bowls quickly and is an aggressive batsman – he’s an exciting young player.
“From our perspective, he is coming to a club where we have a good coaching team in place who we think can improve him as a player. We want to help Paul be the best cricketer that he can be.”
It is another blow for Durham, who suffered heavy points penalties this season as punishment for having to seek a bale-out from the ECB to preserve their Division One status.
Coughlin, brought through Durham’s academy system and helped through some severe injury problems, is currently injured with a side injury and won’t feature again for Durham this season.
Botham, Durham’s president, said: “Following Paul Coughlin’s decision to leave Durham County Cricket Club, I would like to express my frustration at a number of issues.
“Despite offering Paul – a player we have nurtured through our academy system and someone we hold in extremely high regard – a very competitive contract extension, our devoted support during periods of injury, continuous development and leadership opportunities; the player has chosen to leave Durham.
“I respect Paul’s right to move clubs and understand that players at certain times in their careers may want to move on.
“However, it’s without question that our second division status, points penalties and difficult financial situation has created an opportunity for rival counties and intermediaries to unsettle players with promises of first division cricket, greater England opportunities and immediate financial reward.
“It concerns me that the current arrangements within cricket do not reward counties that invest in academies and produce exciting young English players.”
Botham promised that Durham would be at the forefront of the fight to win greater financial compensation for counties who produce their own players – and did not rule out support for a transfer system if suitable compensation was not possible.
He went on: “The ECB is currently reviewing its partnership agreement with the counties and Durham will be making strong representations to properly reward those that invest in the development of local talent.
“They need to introduce a transfer or similar system of compensation, to remove the potential for conflict of interest by preventing serving directors of cricket acting as selectors and to better regulate the behaviour of agents.”
Durham receive about £100,000 as a direct grant from the ECB towards the running of their academy which despite stringent cost controls costs about £230,000 a year.
As transfers become increasingly common, clubs with a strong commitment to producing players within their own community are increasingly exasperated.
Durham’s promotion ambitions were scuppered by a 48-point penalty, although they have put together a decent run of form as the season has gone on.
“In the meantime, Durham will devote all of its available resources to putting together a squad of players that are committed to the club and share our ambition to return to the first division and winning trophies,” Botham said.
“We are currently negotiating with a number of players, domestic and overseas with a view to returning to the top flight next season.
Durham’s academy has been marked as outstanding by the ECB and no fewer than 75% of the 1st XI squads in 2016 were drawn from north-eastern communities.