Update: Lancashire Cricket Club Outgrounds
Lancashire Cricket confirmed earlier this month that Sedbergh School will host the Club’s Specsavers County Championship fixture against Durham, starting on Sunday 30 June.
The Club’s official website caught up with Paul Allott, Director of Cricket, to chat through the decision-making around Sedbergh School being selected to host the Durham fixture, as well as a wider look at the process and the Club’s outground infrastructure.
“Over the last six months the Club has carried out a thorough and detailed review of cricket grounds in the county, which included an independent ECB consultant, and we as a collective group, are confident that the Durham fixture being played at Sedbergh School will be a positive one for the Lancashire Members and supporters that attend over the course of the four days,” said Allott.
The decision making process saw the likes of the head groundsman, his wider grounds team, the independent ECB pitch consultant (who has visited all of the out-grounds), the Cricket Department including Paul Allott and Head Coach Glen Chapple, the Operational Department which is responsible for the delivery of such events and match days, Chief Executive Daniel Gidney, and the Sales and Marketing department that includes Membership.
“Sedbergh School has a quality pitch and outfield which has regularly been used by Cumberland CC for Minor Counties’ fixtures in recent years. They have top quality practice and net facilities as well as an outstanding gym and pool used for warm-up and rehabilitation,” added Lancashire’s Director of Cricket.
“It is also very important to note that the school has a team of four permanent ground staff which is especially relevant this summer due to the extra demands placed on Lancashire’s Head Groundsman Matt Merchant and his team. This is a unique position within the county and very important in 2019, with the Club’s overall commitments including the regular domestic season, the team training at both Emirates Old Trafford and Liverpool CC, six ICC Cricket World Cup fixtures taking place at Emirates Old Trafford, as well as the 4th Specsavers Ashes Test in September.”
In addition to the elite performance considerations and quality of out-field and the wicket, it’s also important to highlight the wider benefits. Allott added: “The Lancashire Cricket Foundation will work closely with the Club, Sedbergh School and a number of other primary schools and recreational cricket clubs in the area, to run an All Stars Cricket festival during lunch breaks throughout the game.
“The Club is also looking at strengthening our links with the Cumbrian Cricket Board and Cumberland Minor Counties. There are some very talented players in the area, with Lancashire age-group players Oliver Green, Evan Williams and Tom Aspinwall all currently attending Sedbergh School. We want those players, and ones of the future, to be representing the Red Rose.
“We are constantly looking to spread the game as far as possible in the North West and that is part of the reason of wanting to play in both Cheshire and Cumbria to help grow the game beyond our traditional borders.
“Sedbergh School has the infrastructure to host a first class game. There is no doubt about that. As an independent school, they have some of the best facilities, equipment and approaches to the game, in the North West. It is very much part of their day to day operations, to ensure that they have the best playing conditions, and this is evident from the level of investment they make on their cricket facilities.
“It is also important to note that Lancashire Cricket is not paying Sedbergh School to host the Durham fixture, they are very proud to be hosting this fixture and the wider role it plays in their cricketing ambitions.”
In recent seasons, the team has played at the likes of Southport, Liverpool and Blackpool and each of them remains very much in the Club’s thinking and plans, highlighted by the cricket and operational departments working closely with the ECB to secure £73,000 worth of funding for Liverpool CC towards new machinery and equipment, which will clearly impact positively in 2019, as well as longer term for them.
“The current situation with the Club’s other outgrounds is not an easy one,” said Allott. “Blackpool CC and Southport and Birkdale CC have both had new county wickets laid down a number of years ago, but they’ve not bedded down as quickly as we’d have liked. The main challenge for Blackpool is that they need a significant investment in drainage for their outfield and we’re currently speaking with the ECB to find out what funding or grants may be available for that.
“In terms of Liverpool CC, we are really looking forward to playing our first Specsavers County Championship fixture there since 2014. The Vitality Blast fixture that was hosted there in 2017 against Leicestershire Foxes was a great success and we’re very excited to bring first class cricket back to Aigburth. The reason why we didn’t take a second fixture there was because we don’t want to overload them and take the risk of using two wickets, as well as using Liverpool CC as a training base for our first team squad whilst the ICC Cricket World Cup is being played at Emirates Old Trafford.
“The Club has a very good relationship with those at Southport CC, Trafalgar Road. They have a consultant groundsman who works for them and we have been working hard to try and make a game work there this year. The only way we could have done so this year would have been to pay Southport to host the game to enable them to employ additional ground staff resources.”
Lancashire Cricket fully intends to look at the prospect of holding future first team matches at Southport and Birkdale Cricket Club from 2020 onwards. Southport and Birkdale Cricket Club and Lancashire Cricket remain committed to working closely together over the next 12 months with Trafalgar Road hosting the Red Rose Second XI in a One-Day Trophy fixture on Monday 29 April this season.
“Chester Boughton Hall was an option. It has an excellent wicket but unfortunately their outfield is not quite big enough for the requirements of a first class fixture. This year, for the first time, they are hosting a Kia Super League fixture between Lancashire Thunder and Western Storm on Sunday 18 August and we are working with them to potentially make changes to their square which could enhance the outfield sufficiently for first class cricket.”
Alongside the detail around the wicket, outfield and elite cricket considerations, there was also thought given to the Member and supporter experience.
The Club will be organising transport for the fixture at Sedbergh School and further details will be available in due course. The Members’ Representative Group (MRG) will be consulted on the best way to assess the levels of demand, locations, and the possibilities of return travel not just from various areas of the county but also from the nearest train station(s) to Sedbergh. Details of this will be released in plenty of time ahead of the fixture.
There are good car parking facilities a few minutes away from the school on the nearby rugby pitches, and there will be a variety of seating arrangements in place. A 600-capacity tiered stand will be in place, plus a further 1,000 flat seats around the outfield, as well as further space for members and supporters to bring their own seating.
There will be food and hospitality options too, which will be hosted within the School’s Queens Hall. As with fixtures at Emirates Old Trafford and other outgrounds no alcohol will be permitted to be brought into the ground, but food will be allowed. For those who wish to eat off-site, there are a number of pubs, cafés, restaurants and tea rooms close-by to choose from. Details around disabled access and facilities will also be communicated in due course. The town of Sedbergh has a cash-point and there will be card payment facilities on site, and Members and supporters will also be able to pay by cash.