Lancashire face tricky decision over 2012 venues

Lancashire are facing a tricky decision over where to play their home County Championship matches next summer after the huge success of this 2011 season on the road.

Taking six games to Liverpool and one each to Southport and Blackpool would seem to have been a key factor in the county’s unexpected title challenge, as six of the seven matches so far have produced a positive result – with Lancashire winning four, losing two and drawing only once, in a game against Warwickshire at Aigburth that was the only one to be seriously affected by rain.

The seamers have clearly benefited from playing on outground pitches, but the move away from Old Trafford has also had intangible advantages.

There has been a real feeling of taking the game to the people, especially in the fixtures at Southport and Blackpool which both attracted excellent attendances far higher than could have been expected at Old Trafford.

However Lancashire are also sensitive to the wishes of the large proportion of their membership based in and around Manchester, who have been deprived of any Championship cricket on their doorstep this season.

They may have accepted that as a one-off following the reorientation of the square last winter – especially with Lancashire doing so well at the outgrounds. But they will want more than one-day cricket for their money next season – and Lancashire will also want to start gaining some reward for the expensive redevelopment of Old Trafford rather than staging expensive fixtures on the road.

There had been an expectation that at least six and possibly seven of the home Championship matches would therefore be kept at headquarters, with Liverpool remaining the favoured outground. But the games at Southport and Blackpool have been so successful that it would be very sad not to return next year.

Stanley Park was an absolute picture for the game against Worcestershire last week. The grassy knolls and steep concrete steps around three quarters of the ground give it an advantage over Aigburth by providing the feel of an amphitheatre. The benches and tables outside the beer tent were an inspired touch, and with hand-pulled Thwaites available there in addition to a range of other real ales in the pavilion, the refreshments were a cut above those usually found at many county headquarters, never mind outgrounds.

Blackpool has a number of other unique appeals. Not so much the sight of the Tower looming behind the pavilion, although that is always a bonus for freelance photographers at the game, but the history of league cricket on the Fylde – taking in such luminaries as Jack Simmons, Andrew Flintoff and overseas stars such as Rohan Kanhai, the great West Indies batsman who popped in during the Worcestershire game as he has lived in Blackpool since being entranced by a local girl during a stint at Stanley Park.

That was why Steven Croft’s crucial century in Lancashire’s first innings against Worcestershire was one of the highlights of the season, as the hometown hero was given a warm ovation when he went to the crease and much louder applause when he reached three figures with a six.

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5 Responses to Lancashire face tricky decision over 2012 venues

  1. 1an3 says:

    It’s not as if LCCC members haven’t lived with unpopular decisions in the past that have put their concerns behind commercial result – eg. use of the ground for concerts. Old Trafford has been a soulless place for 4-day cricket in the past, with hardly anyone there and only the pavillion and a couple of other stands open. Can’t see how this would change in the redeveloped OT. Maybe the players have responded to a better atmosphere at the outgrounds too. Maybe a compromise could be found, half at outgrounds, half at OT.

  2. Jules says:

    Maybe play two games away from OT each year, with each outground missing out one year in three?

  3. Neil Mortimer says:

    LCCC will follow the cash cow as they always do so thanks to the outgrounds but bye. Sandwiches for a pound & excellent real ale in 2011 will be replaced with pies & poorly kept Thwaites at Old Trafford in 2012. Thanks to Peter Moores & the boys for a memorable season whichever way it goes from here.

  4. peter liddell says:

    There has been a strong feeling that the Lancashire do not like the outgrounds
    They were there by circumstance rather than by choice this year
    I have been to all games this season except for Blackpool but having been there in the past I would like that arrangement to continue
    Aigburth has done enough to deserve more of the some next season
    Southport was a disaster except for the crowds
    the outfield resembled a meadow in stark contrast to Aigburths lovely outfield
    the main aim at Southport was to part the paying public with as much cash as possible
    £3 for a sandwich was totally unacceptable
    the view behind the first row was obscured & the parking resrictions in Harrod road was a blatent attempt to make us go to the official car park at £5 a time
    some of us know the area well & free parking was readily available on the other side of the railway line
    i dont know if this was greed on the part of the county or the club but it was outrageous
    Southport do not deserve first class cricket
    as to lancashires title hopes
    my view is that we are lucky to be in the hunt
    Warwickshire, Durham & Notts are better teams then we are
    I have been waiting since the 1950s for an outright title win & dont feel we are there yet
    we need a batsman who will consistently make centuries & a quick bowler to add a cutting edge to our attack
    i am not holding my breath

  5. Paul says:

    I too have been to all Lancashire Championship games this year save for Blackpool (I was away – down south enjoying the even more expensive parking of southern England) but have been there in the past. Cheap B&Bs abound within walking distance of the ground – OK I avoid the £7 a night ones but for £20-£30 you can enjoy traditional Blackpool hospitality.

    I live fifteen minutes from Southport and Birkdale and went by train. I had been looking forward to the game at Trafalgar Road since I heard about it late last year. My brother travelled up from Devon to attend the game as we tried in vain to re-live summer days watching Sir Clive, Bernard Reidy, Flat Jack, Wasim and the boys during our youth. We were slightly disappointed by the facilities available and got the feeling that they were trying to maximize any profit to be made. Nothing wrong with that but I don’t like getting ripped off. It also seemed a little unprofessional. We enjoyed the cricket but used the forty minutes at lunch to stroll to Birkdale Village and back in search of vegetarian food.

    I live an hour door to door from Aigburth and have enjoyed my days there this summer. Commented today that when I watched the first game in April the trees were leafless and today the leaves definitely had a autumnal tinge. In the pavilion there is a bargain tea stand and I haven’t felt as though they are trying to separate me from my money.

    What I do think is that this year there has been a novelty to the cricket at Liverpool/Southport and the local population have taken advantage of the ticketing opportunities – all four days for the price of two – offered by the Lancashire.

    Despite living on the coast I have spent many a day watching the championship cricket at Old Trafford and await the development with interest. A crowd of 2000 may look healthy at Aigburth, busy at Southport and bustling at Blackpool but barely registers at Old Trafford. Especially whe parts of the ground remain closed.

    One thing about the development at OT that disappoints me is that the players will no longer emerge from the crowd in the members enclosure – they’ve missed a trick there.