Durham’s relegation from County Championship Division One over financial issues is a “kick in the teeth”, says captain Paul Collingwood.
The North East county were also given a 48-point deduction for next season.
Collingwood, who has been with the club for 21 years, is currently part of England’s coaching staff in Bangladesh.
“The players are seriously unhappy, a lot of anger, a lot of ‘whose fault is this?'” the 40-year-old former England all-rounder told journalists in Dhaka.
“The fact is that the players are 100% innocent here. We get asked to win things, and give our best, and stay in the first division, and that’s what the club is all about.
“That’s why it’s such a kick in the teeth because we know how hard it’s been to continue our first division status with all the strains that have been on our team in the last few years.”
Players unaware of problems
Collingwood, who signed a one-year contract extension with Durham in July, is in Bangladesh with teammate and England all-rounder Ben Stokes.
He admitted that the extent of the club’s problems had come as a shock to the players, who had been unaware of the seriousness of the situation.
“I can’t believe we are in this position. I don’t understand how it can go so far down this road for us to be penalised like this, and how it hasn’t been picked up and brought into a sustainable business like it should be,” he said.
Not the end of the world
The ECB have also stripped Durham of the right to host Test cricket at the Riverside as well as imposing a revised salary cap from April 2017-2020, with the level determined annually by the governing body.
However, Collingwood sought positives in the knowledge that Durham had maintained their first-class status and the club can now look forward.
“When I first heard about it I thought it was the end of the world but in some ways you have to understand that the ECB have given us an opportunity to rebuild and refocus.”
Punishment seems “extreme”
Durham’s director of cricket and former first-team coach Geoff Cook said the severe punishment handed out the club was harsh.
They had to invest a large amount of money to ensure their Riverside ground was up to the standard required to host Tests but have now lost that right.
“This is one of the real tragedies of it,” Cook told BBC Radio Newcastle. “In all innocence, all Durham County Cricket Club have tried to fulfil its commitment to the area and provide a great international venue and top-class sport.
“I’m not sure how the club has got itself into this position, but no matter how it has got there on the surface the punishment is extreme.”