The England and Wales Cricket Board must “re-establish trust” and unify the game or face a breakaway movement, says former director Andy Nash.
Nash resigned in March after learning that Glamorgan were given £2.5m in exchange for not applying to host any Tests between 2020 and 2024.
“It is really important the game does unify, because trust has been adversely affected,” Nash told BBC Sport.
The ECB has commissioned an “external review” into the payment to Glamorgan.
Surrey’s Richard Thompson stepped down as a non-executive director of the ECB later in March.
“It’s now abundantly clear – on the basis that two of us decided to throw ourselves under the bus – that the standards, in relation to these payments in particular and also in relation to a perceived favouring of the elite eight Test match grounds – at the expense of the 10 non-Test match grounds – have been highly problematic,” said former Somerset chairman Nash.
An ECB spokesperson said: “First-class county chairmen had been made aware of the board’s policy to allow any Test match ground to apply for a payment in return for relinquishing their right to host Test cricket.”
Test venues for the period 2020 to 2024 were announced in February, with The Oval, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge the only six listed.
Nash, who stepped down at Somerset in January after 10 years as chairman in order to continue as an ECB director, said Glamorgan “did nothing wrong”.
He added: “I was completely unaware of the payment and therefore it came as a surprise when I read about it.
“I was very concerned. £2.5m is a very material amount of money in the case of cricket and clearly that decision was made many months ago.
“It’s a definite failure of corporate governance that all directors weren’t aware of that payment on a timely basis and given the opportunity to comment upon it.”
The ECB spokesperson said the payment to Glamorgan “was discussed and agreed by the ECB board – with certain members of the board not involved because they had conflicts of interest”.
County Championship in danger of ‘withering on the vine’
ECB chairman Colin Graves told BBC Sport on Monday: “Our corporate governance at the ECB is better than it’s ever been. We now have a totally independent board.”
Nash said the sport is at “a crossroads”, adding: “The game needs to be extremely careful that we don’t polarise towards a soccer-style Darwinian structure, where the largest clubs are the wealthiest.
“One of the great attractions of the game is the fact you’ve got 18 vibrant counties, all with a chance of winnings at least two of the trophies every season.
“It’s very important that we try and retain more of a level playing field than a winner-takes-all structure.
“If we are to pursue money for money’s sake, with a short-term focus, you can wreck the fabric that those of us who love the game admire.
“The four-day game itself is something we all treasure and respect, and if that isn’t invested in and nurtured then that too has the danger of withering on the vine.”
The ECB spokesperson said: “We have consistently shown that we are willing to engage in constructive dialogue with our members and work with them for the benefit of the whole game.
“At our AGM last week we ratified significant changes to our governance – with a board of directors reduced in size, fully independent and exceeding the requirements of the Sport of England governance code.”
Could there be a breakaway movement?
Nash said there is a chance that counties may form their own organisation “within the auspices of the national governing body”, such as football’s Premier League and the rugby union’s Premiership.
“You could see the ECB operating much as the FA (Football Association) or the RFU (Rugby Football Union) does,” he said.
“They would still be at the pinnacle of the sport, but you could find a separate organisation representing the 18 professional clubs and perhaps the MCC, appearing within that overall set-up.”
The lucrative Indian Premier League is contested by franchises, while the Big Bash League has seen rising attendances since being set up by Cricket Australia in 2011.
Nash said: “In India and Australia, we’ve already seen the clubs assume primacy in the governance of the game. It’s now more valuable to them than the international format.
“In England and Wales, that hasn’t yet happened, but that is the direction of travel.”