DEFIANT Newcastle City and Suburban Cricket Association's board is digging in for a fight, refusing to acknowledge an order by Cricket NSW that it was suspended on Thursday.
A scathing Cricket NSW investigation into the running of Newcastle's largest adult cricket competition found critical failings in the volunteer association, including a lack of basic financial controls and practices.
The move lit a raging fire in the boardroom of the NCSCA and its executive hit back on Thursday night vowing to stay on and fight.
President Phil Northey said the board members had no intention of abandoning the competition and would fight tooth and nail to stay.
"We are not going anywhere," he said. "We plan to fight them on this, all the way to the end."
It's a bitter dispute that some fear could spell the end of the social cricket competition that will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its first season this year.
According to insiders, if the NCSCA board has the support of its members it could "choose the difficult path and go it alone" without Cricket NSW affiliation, but it would need to secure insurance and grounds.
The decision to suspend the board follows an 18-month Newcastle Herald investigation that revealed a bitter internal feud that led to a host of controversial suspensions and allegations of bullying, financial mismanagement and lack of transparency
Cricket NSW then launched an investigation, headed by retired police assistant commissioner Peter Parsons and Bottrell Accounting Group, that found major problems with how the NSCCA competition has been run, amid a backdrop of plummeting team numbers.
The investigation found the NCSCA's board failed to manage the association in accordance with minimum required standards of competence.
It also found that the current NCSCA board was not capable of administering the association to the necessary standard and that on several occasions, the board had failed to observe the requirements of its own constitution.
Further findings included that significant personal differences between board members had disrupted the smooth running of the competition and contributed to a decline in player numbers.
Last year, Newcastle Cricket Zone overturned the controversial suspensions of four former NCSCA board members, ruling their ousting from the game invalid. Dan Saunders, Andrew Kelly, Roy Capitao and Grant Hutchings, part of a NCSCA board faction pushing for change, had their suspensions set aside following a ruling by a specially convened review committee.
Mr Northey said on Thursday night that the Cricket NSW investigation findings were "strongly disputed" and no-one from the board had been interviewed during the investigation, raising issues of procedural fairness.
The NCSCA board issued a statement saying it found the decision "distressing", the reasoning behind it astounding and said it would profoundly impact this year's competition.
"Today, the board of NCSCA made direct enquiries with the accountant at Bottrells conducting that review and he indicated that he has not completed that review...," it said.
"Cricket NSW also appointed an investigator to conduct an investigation. Despite the board of NCSCA never being notified of the terms of reference for that investigation, it was willing to cooperate."
Cricket NSW chief executive Lee Germon said there were no allegations of dishonesty against any individuals.
He said the decision to suspend the board was made after months of investigation and serious consideration.
"We have made this decision reluctantly but having received the interim report from Peter Parsons, the initial findings from the subsequent review of the NCSCA's finances and the delay in receiving the requested information, we concluded that it was necessary to take firm action to preserve and reinvigorate the NCSCA competition," Mr Germon said.
"The NCSCA will celebrate 100 years of cricket this summer and have been an extremely important part of the history of the game in Newcastle, but the decline in playing numbers over the last four years could not be overlooked.
"We want to assure the clubs, teams and players that our goal is to provide them with the ongoing opportunity to continue to play in the competition they enjoy, and to help it thrive."
Cricket NSW said club officer Sharyn Beck would assume responsibility for managing the competition for the upcoming season.
Ms Beck's family members have played in the NCSCA competition for the past six years and Cricket NSW said she had extensive knowledge of systems and compliance.
Bottrell Accounting Group's Matthew Anderson was appointed to take responsibility for controlling NCSCA finances.
Cricket NSW said it instructed Mr Anderson to ensure that appropriate financial systems and controls were put in place.
Mr Germon said he contacted Mr Northey on Thursday to inform him of the decision and thank him for his service to cricket.
But Mr Northey said he was not budging. He said the NCSCA had been successful last year, despite the pandemic and rival competition Suburban Districts, and plans were well underway for the coming season.
The rival competition run by Newcastle District Cricket Association launched last year after a player-led revolution calling for the entire NCSCA board to be dissolved in February last year was refused.
In a significant show of no-confidence, almost half of the competition's clubs, which represented 50 of 110 teams, signed a petition calling for the special general meeting and for the board to be dissolved, but the meeting was never called.
At the time, Mr Northey disputed there was widespread disquiet across the competition and described it as being driven by a "handful of clubs".
"What they did was completely illegal," he said. "You can do it but the constitution states how you do it and they didn't do it the right way.
"We advised them of the right way of doing it and they never came back to us."
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