On July 28, 2002, Surrey’s 73-run win over Essex in a 45-over game at Guildford owed a great deal to one man.

Their innings appeared to be coming in under par until a meaty total of 310 for seven was assured by number seven Jason Ratcliffe’s stroke-laden 53 from 31 balls. Ratcliffe’s astute medium-pace then yielded four for 40, including the key wicket of Andy Flower, to dismantle Essex’s chase.

The former Warwickshire player was man-of-the-match – in his 246th and, what turned out to be his last, county match.

I like to get my teeth into a project and there were only three or four people at the PCA back then [2002] so there were loads of areas to grab hold. I grabbed a few and ended up growing them.

Jason Ratcliffe

He didn’t know it at the time, but when Solihull-born Ratcliffe was applauded from the Woodbridge Road field, a 15-year career, which had begun with a championship match for Warwickshire against Sussex at Hove back in August 1988, was over.

Injury to both knees and a further operation soon after that match signalled the end. But Ratcliffe had already taken the first steps in another career, with the Professional Cricketers’ Association, which would bring as much satisfaction as his playing career, perhaps more.

Straight from Surrey, for whom he had been PCA rep for two years, Ratcliffe took up a full-time job with the PCA as the union sought to reinvent itself – and make itself relevant – under new chief executive Richard Bevan. He would stay for 15 years, for three years as communications and education officer and then, for 12 years, deputy chief executive, until leaving in November 2016 to start a sports consultancy business, JATA Management.

“I had been coming to the end of my playing career so knew I needed to do other stuff,” he said. “But I was always busy in the winters so worked a winter with American Express and spent two years in Surrey’s marketing department. I had previously worked for Birmingham City FC in the marketing department whilst at Warwickshire. It was all really good experience.

“I’d been the PCA rep at Surrey for two years but it was just two meetings a year and I had no idea that would turn out to be a job. But part of the role was that all the reps had to write an article for the website once a week and apparently my work impressed.

“Richard Bevan had just come in to the PCA and, after the 2002 season, he offered me a job as communications and education officer. It was a role that excited me because I have a passion for helping people and this was a chance to do that through cricket.

“I like to get my teeth into a project and there were only three or four people at the PCA back then so there were loads of areas to grab hold. I grabbed a few and ended up growing them.”

Ratcliffe got his teeth into his projects to considerable effect. Under his supervision the PCA’s Benevolent Fund, which supports former county cricketers, was galvanised. The area of mental health, previously barely addressed in cricket even though historically it is arguably the sport most heavily affected by such issues, was brought into sharp focus with much greater access to support and expertise opened up to players.

Ratcliffe is the last person to wax lyrical about his own achievements but, when pressed, does admit to a quiet pride in his work on behalf of the PCA.

“I am proud of my part in it,” he said. “Richard drove it all and created the culture of looking after people and I really enjoyed working for him in that environment.

“When I joined in 2002, the PCA didn’t have any benefits and actually there was a lot of negativity towards it among members. They said, reasonably enough, ‘what are you doing for us? You don’t do anything.’

“We didn’t have any money so that’s when we started addressing that, generating some income and building and communicating with players. We began texting them which, although very basic, was groundbreaking and very personal at that time (there were no emails back then) and just generally became a lot more proactive.

“I worked hard to raise the profile of the Benevolent Fund. It is a battle against so many other causes, and it’s a cause that wouldn’t necessarily resonate with the general public, so the challenge was to focus on the PCA’s commercial partners and our members and get them to think ‘right it’s our charity, ‘our insurance policy’, let’s help to build it.’

I work across several other pieces of consultancy and at the moment I spend two to three days per week working for the League Managers’ Association.

Jason Ratcliffe

“I was a PCA board member for 12 years and hopefully achieved a bit but certainly learned a lot. It allowed me build my experience among some very good people.”

So closely was Ratcliffe associated with the resurgence of the PCA that it came as a shock to many when, in late 2016, he quit.

“I’d done 14 years and when Angus Porter left as chief executive I was in the mix for the job,” he said. “I wanted to get it because I really needed to do something different – a new challenge. So it was disappointing, and people said to me ‘you should go, you’re in your mid-40s, go and do something else.’ I thought ‘you’re probably right, I need to be bold and branch out.'”

So Ratcliffe formed JATA Management, whose clients include Craig and Jamie Overton, Joe Denly, Lydia Greenway, Zak Chappell and Warwickshire pair Dominic Sibley and Adam Hose. He has helped Chris Lewis rebuild his life after imprisonment while his work has also expanded beyond cricket.

“I work across several other pieces of consultancy and at the moment I spend two to three days per week working for the League Managers’ Association,” he said. “That’s really enjoyable and I have been very impressed by the calibre of people. They are leaders in high-pressure environments, multi-skilled people, and so it’s fascinating to work with them within the LMA Institute in a personal development, career strategy role.

“I have some really good players on-board within the management side and great people and I still enjoy the cricket world.

“It’s all going quite nicely and there are new opportunities every day. I’ve always liked being busy and I am certainly that!”

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