A LONG-SERVING leader of one of the North-East’s top sports clubs has announced he is stepping down.

David Harker, who has been at the head of Durham County Cricket Club (DCCC) for the past 13 years, will leave his role in May to pursue a private business venture.

The North East-born businessman, who joined the company as financial controller in 1991 before being promoted to chief executive, handed his resignation to the DCCC board earlier this week.

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He will still be involved with the Chester-le-Street-based club, having been invited to take up a role as a non-executive director after he leaves his executive post in May.

Mr Harker said that the decision had not been easy, but he felt that the business venture – details of which are still being finalised – represented an opportunity that was too good to pass by.

“I have enjoyed a fantastic 20 years with DCCC,” he said.

“The club has changed beyond recognition since I joined the team, and it’s a real honour to have played a part in the fantastic achievements made here.

“However, with the Ashes secured in 2013 – something we could once have scarcely imagined happening in Durham - and a very strong and committed management team now on board, I had been thinking that the coming year may be the one in which I looked for a new challenge.

“Of course, whatever you achieve, there is always the temptation to stay on and reach the next goal and the next one after that – which explains why I have been here for such a long time - but it does feel like now is the time to step aside and pass on the reins to someone else.

“I’m thrilled that I can retain involvement in a non-executive capacity.”

No decision has yet been made on who will succeed Mr Harker. Clive Leach, Chairman of the DCCC board, said that the club would not be rushing into appointing a new chief executive.

He said: “We are very sorry to see David go. He has been so good for the club and has helped to take it from the bottom – both as a business and sports team – to the top. DCCC is now an organisation that is recognised on a national and international stage and this is, in no small part, down to the hard work of David and his management team.

“This coming year is a hugely significant one for the club and it is great that David will have the opportunity to step down at a time when the eyes of the world descend upon the Emirates Durham ICG for the 2013 Ashes.

“We certainly won’t be rushing into making any decisions about how we replace David at this stage.

“He has made a significant contribution to the club during the course of his career and we’ll now be taking stock and ensuring that we make the decision that is right for the long terms future of DCCC.”