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Middlesex to be charged over alleged inappropriate behaviour by female employee

Middlesex to be charged over alleged inappropriate behaviour by female employee
Middlesex to be charged over alleged inappropriate behaviour by female employee

Middlesex’s troubles have deepened as the embattled club will be charged with bringing the game into disrepute over allegations of inappropriate behaviour by their chief financial officer, Illa Sharma.

Telegraph Sport has learned that following months of investigations, the newly-formed Cricket Regulator will charge Middlesex with breaching ECB Directive 3.3 – “conduct which is improper or which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer into disrepute”.

The charge is understood to relate to one specific complaint against Sharma, which took place two years ago. Around 30 current and former staff members, including players, were interviewed by the Regulator.

‘Bullying culture’

Two ex-Middlesex employees claim to have suffered from mental health issues as a result of their experience of working at Lord’s, while other Middlesex staff are understood to have complained about a “bullying culture” at the club, which led to them being afraid to speak out about concerns over their working environment due to fear of losing their jobs.

Sharma has been accused of making a number of Middlesex’s younger employees, including players, feel uncomfortable due to her manner, including telling them that they had to be nice to her because she paid them. One player is understood to have claimed that she told him to keep her onside because she controlled the P45s.

Another source with knowledge of the Regulator’s investigation has claimed to Telegraph Sport that they had witnessed “inappropriate behaviour on multiple occasions” from Sharma in the Boardroom and Committee room.

“To put it kindly there were multiple occasions when I witnessed overfamiliarity with Board members and others,” the source claimed.

Sharma is understood to have been interviewed under caution by investigators acting on behalf of the Regulator, which was set up by the ECB last year as an independent body to run and enforce disciplinary and governance matters following complaints about the governing body’s handling of the Azeem Rafiq racism saga. Middlesex chief executive Andrew Cornish and chairman Richard Sykes have also been interviewed by members of the Regulator’s investigative team.

In response, Middlesex said: “The club wishes to confirm that it has been in contact with the Cricket Regulator and has been made aware of allegations that relate to the conduct of chief financial officer, Illa Sharma.

“The club can also confirm that it has spoken to the Cricket Regulator in relation to this matter and has assisted them with their enquiries.

“Despite being made aware of these allegations, the club has yet to receive any formal notification of a charge being brought against Middlesex Cricket, or any individual, by the cricket regulator.

“At this stage the club has no further comment to make.”

Sharma joined Middlesex as chief financial officer in October 2021 in the first big appointment made by Cornish, and was asked to join the Board the following year. The former City accountant has been widely credited internally with improving Middlesex’s beleaguered finances and the club announced their first profit since 2016 last year.

After issuing charges the Regulator will pass the matter on to the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC), another independent body which will appoint a three-person body to hear the case. The CDC has a range of sanctions at its disposal if Middlesex are found guilty, including fines and points deductions.

Toxic dispute

Middlesex were fined £150,000 and given a suspended points deduction in the County Championship, One-Day Cup and T20 Blast for breaching financial regulations last year. As these impending charges relate to a different category of offence, however, it is unlikely that the suspended points deduction would be triggered if they are found guilty by the CDC.

Middlesex have been in a toxic dispute with their former chief executive, Richard Goatley, in recent years. They allege he made unauthorised payments into his bank account and one held jointly with his wife said to total more than £70,000. Goatley denies misappropriating, and his family complained to the ECB about the county’s handling of the situation. Two months ago, Goatley filed a “personal injury” claim against the club at the High Court in London. In turn, Middlesex handed the case to the police.

Last year, Telegraph Sport published an investigation into the club’s financial mismanagement, which included details of an alleged possible tax scandal over the club’s buying and selling of cricket balls, a failure to file accounts for the recreational game that amounts to a criminal offence, fines allegedly imposed by HM Revenue and Customs over consistently late filings, and the temporary freezing of the club’s bank account for similar failings, and claims bailiffs visited the club’s offices at Lord’s over thousands of pounds in unpaid work-related parking fines incurred by Goatley.

Of the 18 first-class counties, Middlesex find themselves in the unique position of not owning their headquarters, or indeed any ground fit for hosting professional cricket, which denies them the opportunity to capitalise on non-cricket revenue streams such as concerts and conferencing. They are exploring the possibility of securing outside investment and a permanent second home away from Lord’s.

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