Yorkshire chief expresses concern over unsustainable cricket venues

Mark Arthur feels clubs should not risk heading towards bankruptcy just to host matches © Getty Images

Leeds: May 25, 2013

Yorkshire’s new chief executive Mark Arthur said on Friday he feared the number of grounds bidding for international cricket in England had reached an “unsustainable” level.

Traditionally, international cricket in England was shared between six venues — Lord’s and The Oval (both London), Nottingham’s Trent Bridge and Birmingham’s Edgbaston (both Midlands) and Leeds’s Headingley and Manchester’s Old Trafford [both north of England].

But, partly in a bid to get the traditional venues to improve their facilities, recent years have seen the likes of Durham’s Riverside ground and Hampshire’s Rose Bowl added to the list of international grounds
Indeed, there are now 10 existing venues that currently stage one-day internationals, if not Tests, in England with south-west county Somerset keen to add their Taunton base to that list.

And this year the Riverside will stage its first Ashes Test, with Headingley missing out on hosting one of the flagship five-day games against Australia.

The newer international grounds can’t match Headingley, where Australia great Don Bradman twice scored 300 in a Test match and New Zealand won their first Test in England in 1983, for history — but history only counts for so much in a modern, commercial world.

“Now there’s a huge bidding process with 10 soon to be 11 (international grounds), it’s unsustainable really,” Arthur said Friday.

“There’s a finite amount of international cricket in this country, to spread it amongst 11 international grounds and expect all those grounds to be at the same level as the top international grounds around the world, that’s not going to work,” added Arthur, appointed earlier this month.

“You don’t want clubs bankrupting themselves just to stage matches.”

Arthur’s first day presiding over an international match at Headingley, Yorkshire’s headquarters in Leeds, ended in frustration after the opening day of the second and final Test between England and New Zealand was washed out without a ball being bowled.

Yorkshire, which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary, is renowned as the ‘cricket county’ in England, with fans priding themselves on their knowledge of the game.

But they also have a reputation for being ‘canny with their brass’ and Arthur, a former chief executive of both Nottinghamshire and Nottingham Forest football club, said Friday’s minimum adult ticket price of £40 ($61) was something he would have to examine.

“That I’ll have to look at. We’ve got to make sure Headingley looks good to the world of cricket. A half-empty stadium doesn’t look good.”

Lord’s, backed by the membership of MCC, the club that owns ‘the home of cricket’, routinely sells out international games while charging some of the highest prices to watch cricket in England.

But Arthur said comparing venues outside London to Lord’s was unfair. “It’s important to understand that not everybody has the spending capacity of those people that live in the south-east of the country.

“That has to be factored in when allocating matches. There’s a finite amount of money that you can charge out in the provinces.”