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KP-gate: Waitrose suffers through association with English cricket's vipers' nest

15/05/2015 11:06 BST | Updated 14/05/2016 10:59 BST

One suspects Mark Price, the CEO of Waitrose, is not a fan of lying, internecine score settling, back stabbing, vindictiveness and abuse of power by the few at the expense of the many, and so it must be galling for him to see his company's name emblazoned above, behind and, indeed, across the chests of the main players in the neverendingly vicious psychodrama English cricket has become.

Certainly the fetid stink of corruption that currently emanates from the corridors of Lords must be a far cry from the wholesome, aspirational image with which Waitrose, and parent company John Lewis, wished to align when it got into bed with the ECB, signing a three-year deal in May, 2013.

John Lewis, after all, is a steadfastly principled organisation, run for the many by the many, prepared to give all 69,000 employees share equity to achieve a common sense of ownership, pride and purpose. It is a company rightly lauded for putting into practice the best British values of fairness and openness.

But the way the ECB is currently being run, with no thought for the public that owns the team beyond fleecing it for expensive tickets, is surely at odds with every one of John Lewis' values.

How, for example, can Waitrose support an organisation whose own chairman is prepared to deal in untruths? In March of this year, ECB Chairman-elect Colin Graves told Kevin Pietersen he would stand a chance of selection if he signed for a county and scored runs, only to renege on his promise the moment both conditions had been met.

Does Waitrose not stand for honouring promises?

How can Waitrose continue to support a public body that steadfastly refuses to make itself accountable or to be transparent, a body that is prepared not only to make an outstanding employee, Pietersen, redundant without explanation, but to traduce him at every opportunity thereafter, secretly and mendaciously briefing against him through the media?

Does John Lewis not stand for transparency and accountability?

Similarly, how can Waitrose continue to support an entity that unashamedly operates two employee codes of conduct - one for the favoured few and one for the rest? Where Pietersen is purportedly ostracised for writing a book intended to set the record straight, Stuart Broad still faces no penalty for his role in the KPGenius Twitter account that set out to humiliate his teammate during matches.

Does Waitrose not believe in treating everyone equally?

And how can Waitrose support an institution that does not believe in the simple values of meritocracy, that is prepared to prevent career development on grounds as absurdly subjective as supposed popularity? Kevin Pietersen may be widely acknowledged to be the best batsman in the land, but he won't be picked to represent England because a cabal of influential players says he doesn't fit in, without ever explaining exactly why.

Does John Lewis really believe that being popular is more important than excelling at your job through diligence?

The coming weeks and months will be testing ones for John Lewis, one suspects, as the blood letting in English cricket becomes ever more brutal and tribal, and as New Zealand and then Australia attempt to pulverise a Waitrose-branded English side that is deliberately weakened by the grossly unfair exclusion of Pietersen, a team that is governed by a powerful clique of self-serving good old boys.

Through no fault of its own, Waitrose will daily come this summer to be ever more closely associated in the minds of the British public with a spectacle - the dismal treatment of Pietersen - that is as unfair as it is unedifying.

It is hard not to feel some semblance of sympathy for CEO Price, who must have signed off the ECB deal believing the brand match was an ideal one. He could not have imagined back in 2013 how quickly he would be made to look a fool by, first, Paul Downton and now by Andrew Strauss.

That said, if Waitrose really is prepared to abandon all of its principles for a few corporate boxes at important sporting events, then why not go the whole way? Why not get behind Sepp Blatter's FIFA?

The opportunities for Waitrose, post-ECB, are endless.