SIR IAN BOTHAM took a thinly-veiled swipe at Nottinghamshire's Director of Cricket Mick Newell yesterday after Paul Coughlin signed a three-year contract at Trent Bridge.

Among several changes called for by Botham, the Durham chairman suggested the ECB should “remove the potential for conflict of interest by preventing serving Directors of Cricket acting as selectors.”

Newell and Middlesex's Angus Fraser perform this dual role, as has Warwickshire's Ashley Giles.

In a statement issued by the club, Botham expressed his frustration with 24-year-old Coughlin and the structures in domestic cricket which have encouraged him to leave the county which has carefully nurtured him.

Describing the Sunderland all-rounder as “a player we hold in extremely high regard”, Botham added: “Despite offering him a very competitive contract extension, our devoted support during periods of injury, continuous development and leadership opportunities, the player has chosen to leave Durham.

“I respect Paul’s right to move clubs and understand that players at certain times in their careers may want to move on. However, it is without question that our second division status, points penalties and difficult financial situation have created an opportunity for rival counties and intermediaries to unsettle players with promises of first division cricket, greater England opportunities and immediate financial reward.

“It concerns me that the current arrangements within cricket do not reward counties that invest in academies and produce exciting young English players.

“The ECB is currently reviewing its partnership agreement with the counties and Durham will be making strong representations to properly reward those that invest in the development of local talent.

“They need to introduce a transfer or similar system of compensation, to remove the potential for conflict of interest by preventing serving Directors of Cricket acting as selectors and to better regulate the behaviour of agents.

“In the meantime, Durham will devote all of its available resources to putting together a squad of players that are committed to the club and share our ambition to return to the first division and winning trophies.

“We are currently negotiating with a number of players, domestic and overseas, with a view to returning to the top flight next season."

Coughlin, who has a history of back trouble and is missing the last six weeks of this season with a side strain, captained Durham's Twenty20 side this season.

He follows another who had been groomed for the captaincy, Mark Stoneman, through the exit door, along with Scott Borthwick.

It will not have escaped Coughlin's notice that prior to joining Surrey Stoneman was not considered good enough to play for England Lions, which is the usual stepping stone into the England team.

Coughlin said: “It was an extremely tough decision to leave but I am excited about joining Nottinghamshire and playing at Trent Bridge. It is a fantastic opportunity to continue my development.”

Newell said: “We see Paul as someone who can be influential for us in all forms of cricket and fits the type of cricketer we want to sign. He is a dynamic fielder, bowls quickly and is an aggressive batsman – he's an exciting young player.”