County cricket will be subtly different in 2015, with Pitch Liaison Officers and Umpire Coaches replaced by a new team of four Cricket Liaison Officers – and Chris Kelly, the ECB’s Umpires Manager, explains the change reflects a significant development in responsibilities and approach.
“The CLOs will be there to support all stakeholders including the groundsmen and the umpires, and having them there for all four days of a County Championship match will allow us to receive more detailed and live information back from the grounds, Kelly told ecb.co.uk.
“The PLOs might have been viewed a bit like policemen – they’d be appointed to a day of a championship game or turn up at a ground if something was going wrong. We see our Cricket Liaison Officers building positive relationships with the groundsmen, as well as the umpires and other key figures at the match – relieving some of the anxiety from what was there before.”
The composition of the first quartet of CLOs reflects the breadth of their new role.
Tony Pigott, the former Sussex all-rounder and chief executive, has been a regular sight on county grounds for the last decade as a PLO.
Phil Whitticase has been appointed after three decades of service to Leicestershire, most recently as director of cricket.
Graham Cowdrey followed the family line into the Kent team for 14 seasons from 1984 to 1997, and since retirement has worked in finance and fundraising.
The team is completed by Stuart Cummings, who remains a more familiar name in rugby league than cricket, as a leading referee who then ran the match officials department in the 13-a-side code.
But Cummings does have some cricket pedigree, having played Minor Counties matches for Cheshire, and made a highly positive impression in his first summer working closely with the first-class umpires last year.
“We had a large number of strong applicants, and we’re delighted with the four we’ve appointed,” said Kelly.
“Pitches will be Tony Pigott’s obvious area of specialism, as will his vast experience in the game.
“Phil Whitticase has in-depth knowledge of the game at a professional level in its current form, and we see that as being very valuable.
“Graham Cowdrey has a wealth of cricket knowledge and as a very collaborative and supportive personality – he is a very good fit for these new roles.
“Stuart has considerable experience in professional officiating worldwide which he has been able to translate across several other sports, with the added benefit of a good working knowledge of cricket from his own experience.”
Counties are being introduced to the new system at a series of pre-season roadshows over the next few weeks, and Kelly believes they will be supportive of this initiative.
“We’re in this for the long haul, and at some time in the future we expect to see us able to cover every first team county fixture in all competitions,” he added.
Alan Fordham, the ECB’s Head of Cricket Operations, added: “PLOs and Umpire Coaches have tended to attend only one day of a championship match. The CLOs will be able to see the whole of a match which will give them, and in turn us, a much better feel for what’s happening.
“The primary aims of the new system will be to empower counties and their groundsmen to produce the best pitches possible at their venues and to support them in doing so, and to provide opportunities for umpires to develop with the necessary support at the right time.”