Worcestershire CCC recently welcomed a new chairman at the helm in Fanos Hira (left) who has replaced Stephen Taylor after a four year spell in the role.
Fanos is excited about taking up this prestigious role and working closely with the Board, CEO Matt Rawnsley and the coaching team as part of a revamped set-up during the past 12 months at Blackfinch New Road.
Here Fanos outlines what occupying the post means to him, memories of past glories on the field, hopes for the future in all areas of the club, the impact of CEO Matt Rawnsley and Head Coach Kevin Sharp, in a Question And Answer session with the Worcestershire website.
But the most heartening message for supporters from Fanos is that Worcestershire “can compete with everyone.”
Question: Mr Chairman, welcome into your new role, what does it mean to you to be the new Worcestershire CCC chairman?
Fanos Hira: “Thank you. It clearly means a great deal to me to take up this role, to be asked to do it, and have the support of the board. It is not something I ever had ambitions to do.”
“But, having been involved in the club as greatly as I have been during the last two to three years, it is something I will relish and do to the best of my ability.”
Question: How did the chance come about to take on this coveted role?
Fanos Hira: “The background to all of this is quite a while ago I was asked to give some advice to Mark Newton (former Worcestershire CEO) and that’s when I first met David Leatherdale who, when he took over as CEO, set up a strategic group. I was asked to join that group which was a sub-group of the Board.
“We assisted on certain things, typically a good selection of business people, and then in late 2015, I was asked if I would be interested in joining the Board which I accepted with relish and was ratified at the 2016 AGM.
“As a chartered accountant, I was asked to join the audit committee and I took over as audit chairman in June of that year.
“I accepted that role on the basis of two things, that 1) I got to know everyone at the club so I could understand what is occurring and why things are done the way they are done and 2) it was important we spent a great deal of time on governance and making sure that best practices were adopted – and that’s what we’ve done. It has been worthwhile and challenging.
“Steve Taylor gave good notice in October 2017 that he wanted to be chairman for only four years – a period which finished at the end of this season.
“I’d like to thank Steve for all his efforts and there is a lot of stuff that has occurred over the last two or three years that we expected – and some that we hadn’t.
“The Board has operated under Steve’s chairmanship really effectively to get to where we are now.
“One of the big things approved overwhelmingly at the last AGM was the new constitution changes and that’s important. One of the things was the creation of a nominations committee initially chaired by Tim Curtis.
“They went and discussed who they thought would be a candidate and, although I had no ambitions to do this role, we are in such an exciting phase and I’m honoured to be offered the chance to be chairman of this wonderful club.
“I’m in this for the long term and want to do the best I can for the club.”
Question: Your allegiances with Worcestershire go back a long way?
Fanos Hira: “I’ve been following this club since my early teens. It’s an interest that stems well over 30 years. I’m a local lad, I went to school in Worcester and my close family owned a local restaurant that many of the players would use.
“I recall coming here in the mid 1980s and have been to many of the great sporting successes of this club – the County Championships and finals at Lords and elsewhere.
“It was a golden era for the club, the Bothams, Dilleys, Curtis’, Leatherdales, Rhodes, Radfords, Newports, Illingworths etc. It was a tremendous team.
“I particularly remember the 1994 (NatWest Trophy) final against Warwickshire because it spilled over into a second day and at the time I was living in London training to be an accountant before I moved into investment banking.
“I shared a flat there and lots of friends from Worcestershire needed to stay overnight for the second day so I had about 15 people sleeping on my floor!
“I’ve always followed the club closely. I never thought I would be asked to help on the strategic group, the board, and now chairman and it is such an honour – I will do everything I can to help this club.”
“We’ve made strident gains. I tried to communicate that at the AGM when I presented the financial review.
“On the face of it we have made losses but it masks the fact we have spent a vast amount more on cricket and that’s a result of all the other stuff we have done to improve things. Our focus will always be on cricket.
“Of course, there is a long way to go but that’s what we are about. We are a cricket club and, with Matt (Rawnsley) being hired, we are pleased with the early steps he has taken.
“Whilst there’s still lots to be done and challenges we must face, I think the future looks very attractive and bright. We know our business and that will create some great cricket opportunities in the coming years.”
Question: You have taken over at a time when there have been big changes – Kevin Sharp and a new coaching staff, Matt Rawnsley as CEO and now yourself?
Fanos Hira: “I must pay special thanks to Kevin Sharp who has absolutely unique qualities. He is completely selfless, a wonderful mentor, and such a good motivator of people.
“But also, he is the glue that galvanises the whole coaching set-up. He means a great deal to this club and we value hugely his contribution. He excels at bringing the best out of coaches and players.
“His qualities have just enabled this fantastically talented group of players to express themselves as well as they have – as was demonstrated on Vitality Blast finals day.
“I’ve been lucky enough to go to World Cup finals, and also like watching rugby, but nothing compares to that success at Edgbaston.
“You just saw an emerging talent express themselves and do well which made the whole club and supporters hugely proud. They fulfilled their undoubted potential.
“That is a fantastic aspect of what we have achieved and I wouldn’t want to underestimate the value of Kevin in that.
“But clearly the two coaches, Alex Gidman, and Alan Richardson, are strong emerging talents and very impressive in what they do. Collectively they work so well and create an environment where people can flourish in a culture everyone
want to be a part of. Everyone has a voice and that’s important in my view.”
Question: You have made it clear you want to also help to bring success to
Worcestershire in the County Championship and stop being a yo-yo club between the two divisions?
Fanos Hira: “Absolutely. Clearly if you look at the stats, this is a club that goes up and then disappointingly goes down.
“I recently looked at a great graphic of Surrey’s performances over the past 14 years where they’ve spent a period in Division Two and then built themselves up and solidified their position to where they are now.
“I want us to not have that mantra of being a yo-yo club and there are clearly things we need to do to address that and there are things going on in the background that will hopefully help with that goal.
“Our aim quite simply is to compete with anyone – and that’s the ambition we must have at our club.
“I think we’ve done so much in the background regarding finance and we are close to sorting everything out.
“We can compete with everyone, we can create an environment that is hopefully nicer to operate in, we have this overwhelming focus on emerging, brilliant young cricketers.
“We develop talent and hopefully all of those things combined can lead to future success.
“It would be naïve of me not to comment and say we are disappointed with where we finished in the Championship.
“You can say, as I’ve heard said, it’s one poor session but at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is the overall result and, without being cliched, the table doesn’t lie so we do need to improve.
“We are not in anyway constrained and we must improve and compete in all formats of the game.
“Collectively, we all need to improve and that’s what we will endeavour to do. I’m really hopeful we can.”
Question: You’ve brought in a Kolpak player and a good signing in Wayne Parnell but can you reassure people that doesn’t mean the philosophy of the club generally is going to alter.
Fanos Hira: “Absolutely not. The philosophy will not alter at this club. Clearly that’s a slight tweaking. That’s how we as a board view it.
“The overwhelming focus is on developing our own talent but equally we are mindful that we do have to compete.”
Question: You’ve strengthened with the signing of Callum Ferguson, Wayne Parnell and Riki Wessels for 2019?
Fanos Hira: “I’d like to say a special thank you to Tim Curtis (vice-chairman), Paul Pridgeon and indeed all of the cricket committee we set up at the start of the year, and the part they have played in all cricketing matters.
“Tim’s contribution is not to be underestimated particularly before Matt joined as CEO, his wise counsel has contributed to our success and development this year.
“It’s a forum where the coaching team can speak to cricket experts and the board is well stacked with them.
“It’s part of the reason why Matt was chosen as CEO, it’s part of the reason why Paul is on the board, it’s part of the reason why Gordon Lord, a leading authority on coaching, was elected on to the board.
“Tim has done a lot of work in the background along with that of Matt which has been instrumental in us signing some really great talent.
“What heartens me is not just the performance of people like Callum Ferguson, Martin Guptill and Travis Head but also that they will all explain to you how special it is to play here. I think they’ve really enjoyed being part of our Club.
“That just tells you the environment is right and that is important to me.
“It is very easy to talk about cultures in a cliched way but in the three years I’ve been on the board, I’ve seen significant changes. We must not stand still and marvel at our historic culture but actually strive to further improve things”.
“Tom Scott (former CEO) shook that tree and started the whole process and Matt Rawnsley has been instrumental in continuing that and we are very fortunate to have him as a CEO.
“He has brought the club closer together. He explained to everyone when he first came here – players, non players, all the staff – that we are one club.
“Even at the point of maximum success in the dressing room after the Vitality
Blast win, Matt paused the celebrations, stood on the table and reiterated that this is one club, we are altogether and that is the environment we are creating here at Worcestershire.
“I think everyone has bought into this and everyone knows their efforts matter, whatever role they have. This has created a strong platform to grow and hopefully kick on.”
Question: Can you explain the importance of Matt Rawnsley’s role on the cricket side after the change from a Director Of Cricket to Head Coach with Kevin Sharp’s appointment?
Fanos Hira: “It might not give the impression externally but everything we have done over the past year or two has been planned in terms of structure of roles.
“That kind of structure in terms of the contract negotiations versus the coaching side, we’ve clearly split that and that’s important because if you are a player you want to be coached.
“You don’t necessarily want to have that chat with the same person about contracts and all those other things so those roles have deliberately been split.
“That has taken hopefully a lot of the pressure from the coaching staff in terms of dealing with that side of the business but also it has consumed quite a lot of Matt’s time.”
Question: The financial side is going in the right direction presumably?
Fanos Hira: “I would refer people to the AGM notes that are on the Worcestershire CCC website because it does explain the history of the debt within the game and at our club, where we were two or three years ago and what this board has done to address those issues. We’ve come a long way.
“Debt is reducing and we have things under control. I am not unduly concerned about anything financially.
“We’ve got very detailed forecast on where we are heading and we’ve never had the degree of detail and visibility of our business and the total transparency that we have now.
“In the past there hasn’t been the visibility and the trust and when you’ve got good people (like Matt Rawnsley and his staff) and those on the board, then hopefully that trust can develop in time.
“Where are we in relation to those forecasts? We can always do better, but we are ahead in most areas, and some of the underlying trends are impressive.
“We are on top of where we are at, we can be pre-emptive and do things about it and that’s why we can go out in the market and compete with anyone if we need to.
“Perhaps Wayne Parnell is an example of that.”