Essex target their own Olympic legacy

Essex have reiterated their interest in using the 2012 Olympic Stadium as a future venue to stage Twenty20 matches.

Chief executive David East said: “We are delighted that West Ham United have become the preferred bidder but obviously ratification has still to go through numerous Government offices and departments, plus the Mayor’s Office, but hopefully that will be endorsed and then we can look forward to working with West Ham to try to bring our vision to fruition.

“We are talking about playing Twenty20 matches at the venue and, logistically, it’s just about do-able but it does mean that the running track would have to be utilised and so there are some operational issues in terms of how we would do that. Obviously, you have to make sure that it would be safe and that the transition between one surface and another is not a problem.

“There is also the other major issue of what type of surface do you actually bowl on? Do you use a drop-in pitch which comes at a high cost and is untried in this country, although it has been successful overseas, or do you try to become even more radical and get the ECB to allow you to play on an artificial pitch?

“Once the proposal has been formalised by the Government and the Mayor’s Office, then West Ham will immediately engage with the architects and start to work up a detailed design of the transformation of the stadium. And that is when I expect us to become more actively involved in commenting on the cricketing infrastructure.”

Should Essex decide to experiment with the venue post-2012, it is envisaged that only one or two T20 matches would be staged there with the likelihood of a local derby with Middlesex, Surrey or Kent providing the opposition.

Essex also have planning permission for the development of their Chelmsford headquarters – although that has been put on hold at the present – but the increased capacity there is only likely to be around 8,500.

The prospects of playing in front of an anticipated 20,000 audience is one that naturally appeals to a club that has been actively involved in development work in East London for some years now.

With the Olympic Stadium little more than a Graham Napier six-hit away from one of Essex’s spiritual homes at Leyton, it would give them an opportunity to showcase the county game locally and particularly to the wide Asian community in that area and its surrounds.

“We are responsible for five inner-London boroughs, with Newham being one of those, and the whole area is huge for us in terms of that cricket development activity,” East added.

“It is also an area from where we have drawn a number of cricketers in the past and, with the opportunity of playing cricket in that part of London, it gives us an opportunity to engage with an audience that otherwise we might not have.”

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