Sutherland resigns as chief executive

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland steps down after a 17-year tenure

After a 17-year tenure, James Sutherland has resigned as Chief Executive Officer of Cricket Australia (CA). 

Sutherland announced his resignation in Melbourne on Wednesday morning, a week out from the national men's ODI team's series opener against England in London, more than two months on from the ball-tampering crisis that rocked Australian cricket, and amid an independent cultural review into CA.

He has provided 12 months’ notice and will continue in his current position until a suitable replacement is found.

"After nearly 20 years at Cricket Australia, the time is right. I feel very comfortable that this is the right time for me and a good time for the game," Sutherland said in a press release. 

"In the last 12 months we have laid key foundation stones which have included a new strategy for Australian cricket, a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Cricketers' Association that provides certainty for our male and female cricketers, and just recently, a new domestic broadcast rights deals that will see broader TV coverage and significant increases in revenue flowing into the game. 

"With these foundations in place, I feel that it is a good time to hand over the reins to a new CEO. My successor will have a strong and stable platform from which to lead our national strategy and to deliver on our bold aspirations to grow cricket as Australia’s favourite sport and a sport for all Australians.  

"As it has been over the last 20 years, it will be a privilege and honour to continue to serve the game over the remaining months that I am in office."

It has been a tumultuous period for Australian cricket, with the resignation of national men's team coach Darren Lehmann also part of the fallout from the ball-tampering affair, for which leadership duo Steve Smith and David Warner were each banned for a year. 

Sutherland condemned the behaviours of the players, flying to South Africa as an investigation unfolded, before bans were handed down to Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft. 

The exit of Sutherland continues a trend of recent changes at the top of the CA tree, with former Board director Kevin Roberts last month promoted to the role of Chief Operating Officer, while last week, Head of Integrity Iain Roy took a redundancy.

The 52-year-old Sutherland took over the reins at CA from Malcolm Speed in July 2001, having been employed with the organisation as Chief Financial Officer. He was 35 at the time – younger than then Australia Test captain Steve Waugh. 

Image Id: 8EB888FE10E548C1B0A2CBBA3888FE84 Image Caption: Sutherland was appointment in 2001 // Getty

Through that period, cricket participation numbers in Australia have grown from around 400,000 to 1.4 million, as recorded in last August's national cricket census, with the grassroots element of the sport a major focus of his tenure.

"On behalf of the board and management of Cricket Australia we thank James for his wonderful service to the game," said CA Chairman, David Peever. 

“James has been instrumental in driving crucial change around the game to make it even stronger for future generations.

“During his period of leadership, James has retained a strong passion for junior cricket and its fundamental importance in providing sustainable growth to the sport. To that end, cricket has experienced a 228 per cent increase in participation including a near ten-fold increase in female participation. 

“Aggregate attendances have increased by 137 per cent, whilst revenue has also increased nearly ten-fold being around $50 million when James commenced in the position, to around $500 million today.”

Image Id: D755162AA068479F936E0A28B2B40E2D Image Caption: Sutherland with Jodie Fields following Australia's 2013 World Cup win // Getty

During his time in charge, as well as significant successes for the national teams (both men's and women's teams have been multiple World Cup winners), Sutherland has also overseen the introduction and spectacular rise of the KFC Big Bash League, and more recently, the Rebel Women's Big Bash League. 

In April, CA announced it had moved away from its long-standing relationship with Channel Nine, signing a six-year broadcast deal with the Seven Network and Fox Sports worth nearly $1.2 billion. 

"What we are particularly proud of in this partnership is the focus on extending our broadcast coverage of women’s matches," said Sutherland at the time. 

"Our partners are key to inspiring more women and girls to pick up a bat and ball. If more elite content is accessible to fans be it on TV or through their mobile devices, we’re helping tap into new audiences to attract them to the sport."

A consequence of the cheating scandal in South Africa was widespread criticism of the organisation and leadership at CA, and two complementary reviews were subsequently announced. 

The first of those is being conducted by The Ethics Centre, an independent not-for-profit organisation, which will encompass a broad examination of cultural, organisational and governance factors within CA. 

The second is a player-focused review, in which past and present players have been tasked to pinpoint the areas where the game’s aspirations and actualities might potentially diverge.

That review will be chaired by former Test player Rick McCosker, who will work with a panel that includes current and former players Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Rachael Haynes, Shane Watson (Australian Cricketers' Association nominee), George Bailey and Justin Langer.