Last night I wrote about Derbyshire's chairman Chris Grant and his contribution to the club over the past two years. The efforts of successive chief executives, Keith Loring and Simon Storey should not be overlooked either, nor the sterling work of an award-winning marketing team.
The heightened professionalism of the club was confirmed today with the publication of the club's strategy, taking us up to 2019. Speaking as someone who has been involved in dozens of such things over the years, it has two things to commend it straight away - a logical and relevant time span, together with brevity.
I've started to read strategies in the past clean-shaven and ended up with designer stubble by the time I got to the end. The one produced by Messrs Grant and Storey is pertinent, thought-provoking and eminently sensible. It will enable the club to grow, on and off the pitch and should ensure that on field efforts are supported by business sustainability and financial security.
Few sports clubs in the country are currently debt-free and Derbyshire already have an enviable model for others to follow, but the publication of this strategy should enable the club to move to a new level.
Given that the strategy is essentially a six point plan, it is only fair that I give my thoughts on each.
For most, this is the obvious one and great strides have been made in the signing of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Billy Godleman and Richard Johnson, as well as in securing the long-term services of the best of our senior and upcoming talent. A laudable intention to maintain a 9:2 ratio of home to overseas players ensures that we will benefit from ECB funding, while presumably not excluding the recruitment of the right Kolpak should one become available in the future. It also covers the involvement of players as they qualify and is an eminently sensible move. So too is the involvement of players in coaching, something that prepares them for life after their playing career as well as developing the next generation.
Outstanding Customer Experience
The proposed development of the ground is a real eye-opener and is perhaps the news that the chairman referred to in his Twitter feed a couple of months back. Those of us who grew up with the awareness that Derby was regarded as the 'toilet' of the county circuit are entitled to smile at the news. A new-look ground for 2014 if planning permission is granted? What's not to like? If the ground could be made more compact, more stadium-like, yet still retaining its identity, there is no reason to dispute the possibility of future international status. Even less reason to argue against the ambition...
Engaged and Loyal Supporters
There was a marked improvement in the club's marketing last summer and that has continued apace over the winter, with impressive campaigns resulting in substantial membership increases and business buy-in. I think we will see further activity on this front before the season and involving the members and fans is a sure way to earn continued support. The current campaign Proud to be Derbyshire is innovative and laudable. We may still have some way to go in stopping commentators call us 'Derby' but the people that matter know that we are Derbyshire, a side representative of the county.
Any initiative that ensures a seamless approach to the promotion of the game in the county gets a thumbs up from me. The kids knocking a ball about in a school playground, pretending to be their county hero, are the next generation of players and supporters. Not everyone can be a great cricketer, but enjoyment is even more important and the creation of a post to coordinate community cricket is a step in the right direction. A local club aids community identity and should be a conduit to the county ranks if the system is in place. Another fine idea.
Those are two words that would never have been used in the same sentence as 'Derbyshire cricket' a few years back. It is to the immense credit of all concerned that Derbyshire is now seen as a model of how a small county cricket club can be run. There was a growing awareness of this over the past five summers, but last year's success showed that stability could go hand in hand with success and player development.
Strong corporate governance
For me, perhaps the biggest. Management by committee is an outdated model, the larger the committee, the more unwieldy it is. By the time everyone has justified their involvement by having their say, the meeting has gone round in circles. A number of worthy people have served on the Derbyshire committee over the years, but that doesn't mean that the current set up is right. An increasingly professional club needs the right people on a Management Board, people who are specialists, experts in their field.
Such a model is run, for example, by Somerset, while Sussex are going along a similar path, one seen by the ECB as the way forward. It would mean a streamlining of the current committee structure, but result in more defined roles for the people who are best qualified to fulfil them. My understanding is that members will be asked to vote on the proposals, but I would hope that, given the committee members have already given it their backing, that the membership will follow suit.
I find it very hard to believe that anyone would want to see their club, one on the edge of the big time, run by enthusiastic amateurs and volunteers when the opportunity is there to have professional people who are specialists do the job for them. As pointed out in the Derby Telegraph today it will remain a members-owned club; it will just be one that we can be increasingly proud of as it grows into one of the best.
When it's your turn to vote on the proposal, I'd ask yourself one question. The next time you feel unwell and in need of medical advice, would you sooner see the receptionist or the doctor?
I'd hope that little analogy helps you make up your mind.