Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The ECB still cagey about it's "staging agreements"

Cricket lovers will be aware that the playing field for the allocation of major international matches to England and Wales cricket grounds is far from level. The ECB’s Major Match Group, chaired by Lord Morris of Handsworth, has confirmed that an Ashes Test match will take place at The Oval in 2013 as a part of their “long term staging agreement” - and Yorkshire also has such an agreement with the ECB which guarantees international cricket at Headingley until at least 2019. It is not known whether any other grounds have similar long term deals with the ECB and the ECB won’t tell! An ECB media spokesman told me “You would need to contact the individual venues. We don't release this type of information” – quite why this should be is not clear. What have they got to hide? The Oval and Headingley’s advantageous arrangements are no doubt linked to their ground redevelopment plans which needed to be underpinned financially by guaranteed international cricket at the venues.

This of course brings us to Lord’s which as it stands may not even get an Ashes Test match in 2013 (although one has been promised for 2016). Lord’s has ambitious plans for its redevelopment including taking the capacity up to approaching 40,000. But these plans can surely not go ahead unless the MCC has some certainty about the long term future of international matches at the ground. MCC members and the general cricket-loving public alike will be wondering whether the ECB and the MCC can do a deal which will allow Lord’s plans to proceed. And visiting sides will also, I’m sure, be hoping for a successful outcome – how many players from around the cricket world would happily forgo a Lord’s Test match in favour of the Rose Bowl, the Riverside or Sophia Gardens!

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