Revolution ’97

Published: 2018
Pages: 36
Author: Stonor, Chris
Publisher: Sussex Cricket Museum
Rating: 3.5 stars

Rev 97 cover

The title sounds like its subject matter will be a coup d’etat in some far flung corner of the globe. In fact it refers to something which those who do not get passionate about county cricket will struggle to understand. On the other hand county members and others who do care deeply about the fortunes of their county club know just how emotions can be stirred by the manner in which those clubs are run.

To cite a couple of well known examples no one with a few miles on the clock will not recall the years of internecine strife at Yorkshire, or the huge battle that raged across the West Country in 1986 when Somerset decided not to renew the contracts of their West Indian stars Vivian Richards and Joel Garner, and Ian Botham walked out as a gesture of solidarity towards his erstwhile teammates.

Something similar, if not quite so spectacular, occurred in Sussex in 1997. The membership of a failing county turned on those who led it, heads rolled and a new broom swept away the old committee. Six years later in 2003 the county had won their first championship in more than a century of trying, and just to show it was no fluke repeated the feat in 2006 and 2007.

Journalist Chris Stonor tells the story with some panache. There is a brief explanation of the background followed by an account of the rise and fall of former pace bowler Tony Pigott who, the committee having been replaced in the ‘revolution’, was appointed by the new group to be CEO of the club. Pigott’s main achievement was in persuading former Derbyshire batsman Chris Adams to choose Sussex above the other 13 counties who were pressing for his signature. It was Adams who was the catalyst for the change in fortunes on the field.

That might have been the end of the story, but Pigott was not allowed to finish what he had started. There were some who became concerned at the losses the club were making as Pigott invested and his tenure came to an end as soon as 1999, and others then oversaw the culmination of the successful transition he had begun.

Stonor has thoroughly researched the tumultuous events of the late 1990s and has spoken to most of those involved and the result is an excellent story. At 36 pages, including a considerable number of photographs, the booklet does not, as The Mac would say, outstay its welcome but on this sort of subject a full length book would have been overkill. As it is what happened makes for a perfect subject for this sort of publication.

The Sussex Cricket Museum have produced, to their usual high standard, 150 numbered copies of Revolution ’97, all of which have been signed by Pigott and Adams. It is an excellent account of the events it covers and whilst it will inevitably be mainly of interest to Sussex supporters it is recommended to anyone who follows county cricket. The cost is £17 including UK postage.

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