Graves left stumped by Yorkshire cricket public: Richard Gibson

Outspoken Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves admits his one failure during his tenure at Headingley has been an inability to arrest a slide in the club’s membership.

The number dipped below five figures in the early 1990s, and has since sunk to around the 8000-mark despite concerted efforts by Graves to reverse the decline.

“It is rubbish. It is the one thing I have not been able to get my head around, or improve. Neither for that matter has any other county,” Graves, the founder of supermarket chain Costcutter who effectively bankrolls the club, said.

“Whether the days of members’ clubs are disappearing, I am not sure, but it is a problem. I talk to lots of Yorkshire people at all sorts of levels. They are all passionate about Yorkshire, passionate about Yorkshire cricket, and want us to do well, but if you ask them for £170, they don’t want to part with it. Don’t ask me why not, because I don’t know.”

Full Yorkshire membership – inclusive of admission to all first-team matches in Leeds and Scarborough – costs £175, and is payable in one lump sum. However, that requirement may be reassessed in future. “We could look at that and spread it over three payments, four payments or even 12 payments. If that was the answer to more people joining, we would do it.”

And the club, currently £20million in debt, are keen to explore new avenues in a bid to increase income.

“Maybe we tell people they can be associate members of the club, accept £20 for the privilege and give them a badge. Then, if they turn up on any given day they get a special rate for coming in,” Graves added.

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Meanwhile, Scarborough will play host to a County Championship match pre-July for only the second time in 40 years when Yorkshire take on Leicestershire on May 2.

The only previous Championship fixture in the first half of the summer since 1972 came just two years ago when Essex also visited in May.

The North Marine Road ground is guaranteed a minimum 10 days’ action as per an agreement with Yorkshire, but will get 11 in 2012, with the other four-day encounter against Gloucestershire to be staged during the familiar Scarborough Festival week at the end of August.

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The traditional champion county versus MCC domestic season curtain-raiser will feature pink balls and floodlights once more in 2012 as worldwide experimentation with first-class cricket continues.

The MCC continue to champion the pink ball as the prototype for potential floodlit Tests, despite criticism from Kent and Glamorgan players regarding visibility during a County Championship fixture last September. Crucially, however, that match was played with two different balls, neither of which was the MCC’s preferred model.

A Tiflex-manufactured one was used during the first innings of Glamorgan’s eight-wicket victory at Canterbury and although the preferred Kookaburra brand was trialled for the second, it was an old batch, complete with the maligned dark green stitching, rather than the version with white stitching, due to be used for the county clash in Abu Dhabi in March for the second year in a row.

Elsewhere, John Buchanan and Martin Crowe have been promoting the pink ball on behalf of MCC in New Zealand, yet the push to trial in domestic matches over there has lost momentum since the departure of the board’s chief executive Justin Vaughan.

However, one was used for the final of Pakistan’s first-class competition, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, won by Pakistan International Airlines. And the England and Wales Cricket Board are expected to select another dead rubber from the County Championship for further experimentation later this year.

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Viewers of overseas Test series this winter will become accustomed to the Decision Review System being sponsored, with Pepsi funding its use in the three-match series between Pakistan and England.

The introduction of sponsors has helped nip in the bud arguments on whether boards or broadcasters foot the bill for the use of technology in international cricket. But do not expect Sky Sports to follow suit this summer – strict Ofcom guidelines over here prevent it.

 *Follow me on Twitter @richardgibson74

 

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