HAMPSHIRE chairman Brian Ford is on the verge of sensationally resigning, the Echo can reveal.

Ford is set to tender his resignation later this week, a move which could plunge the club into turmoil as they prepare to move to their new headquarters at West End.

The Echo learned of his intention to resign from the post he has held for five years and this morning he said: "It's not right to say that I am not chairman at the moment but it's a fact that later this week I might not be chairman.

"Discussions are currently taking place and there may well be an announcement later this week, at which time I will be pleased to talk.

"But, other than that, I have no other comment to make at the moment."

The Echo understands that Ford's decision arises from - but is not exclusively due to - the fall-out from the embarrassing back-tracking Hampshire had to make after an advertisement was placed in the Sunday Times to replace chief executive Tony Baker's job.

Ford's resignation is thought to be more closely linked to the problems Hampshire are facing financing their move to West End. The club is still £5million short of the £17million needed to build their state-of-the-art ground.

Discontent has been voiced over the means of fund-raising and factions in Hampshire's committee are divided between those who feel the club should take out loans for the missing £5million to complete the job, and those who feel Hampshire should not go into hock but settle for a lower standard of facility to be improved when funds become available.

The pressure has been building and the political in-fighting has become more intense, although nowhere near the situation of an all-out power struggle such as those which have split Yorkshire and Sussex in the past.

But matters may have been brought to a head by the controversial advertisement.

The Echo understands that a committee meeting authorised the placing of an advertisement in the Sunday Times' recruitment columns for a commercial manager for their new Rose Bowl ground. But the advertisement published was for a chief executive, much to the embarrassment of the club and to current post holder Tony Baker.

And, at a subsequent committee meeting, explanations were sought as to how the advertisement placed was different from the wording agreed by the committee. The club were forced to issue a press statement clarifying the position, stressing that Baker's job was not under threat.

One Hampshire committee member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "There were hints that documents had been altered, but if I was asked to choose between conspiracy or cock-up, I would veer towards cock-up."

Ford is believed to have made his intention to resign verbally known several weeks ago and has not attended the last two committee meetings, including an emergency executive committee meeting called for yesterday.

Ringwood-based accountant Ford succeeded Donald Rich as chairman in 1995, and in that time he has masterminded the move to West End.

But that has coincided with some of the worst cricket Hampshire have played in recent years, culminating in this summer's relegation to Division Two of the county championship, despite the expensive recruitment of Shane Warne and Alan Mullally.

Ford is believed to have suffered disillusionment at Hampshire's disappointing performance both on and off the field despite Warne's presence this summer.

He has increased his workload by joining the ECB inquiry into players wages, which is certain to be a contentious issue, with the ECB having lost £3million this summer because of the early finish to six of the summer's seven Test matches.