Glamorgan Cricket: County bid for crowd pilot events

Glamorgan in action at Sophia Gardens in 2020
Sophia Gardens hosted matches in the Bob Willis Trophy behind closed doors in 2020

Glamorgan have asked the Welsh Government for permission to stage pilot events for the return of crowds to Welsh sport.

No spectators were allowed to any of the county’s matches in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The first home Championship match for Glamorgan is on 15 April against Sussex, with two other four-day games in May.

Such games usually attract modest crowds in the hundreds.

Glamorgan are keen to get larger numbers back to Sophia Gardens for the T20 competition beginning on 10 June, and for international matches between England and Sri Lanka later in the month.

Several English counties are lobbying the UK government for similar pilots.

“I have written to (Welsh Government Minister) Eluned Morgan, whose portfolio includes sport, proposing that our Championship matches at Sophia Gardens in the early part of the season are used as pilot events for returning crowds to entertainment venues in Wales,” chief executive Hugh Morris told the club’s online annual general meeting.

“I am awaiting a response from the minister and hope the vaccine roll-out, and declining hospitalisations and death-rates in Wales, will result in welcoming you (members) back to the ground in increasing numbers as the season progresses.”

The meeting heard that the club has budgeted for various scenarios including a worst-case of no cricket in 2021, and has just had a million-pound grant from the Welsh Government confirmed to cover loss of crowds in 2020.

Morris described it as “the most challenging year imaginable,” though operating losses were restricted to 224 thousand pounds (279 thousand pounds in total) thanks to support from the England & Wales Cricket Board, and the UK and Welsh governments.

Facilities upgrade

He revealed that the county hopes to get ECB grants of 400 thousand pounds a year for four years towards refurbishing deteriorating stands at Sophia Gardens, as well as an interest-free loan of 650 thousand pounds to provide large new video screens.

Work will also be needed to improve the out-grounds at St Helen’s in Swansea and Colwyn Bay to meet new criteria for county cricket grounds being introduced in 2024.

Glamorgan’s first team will play all its matches in Cardiff in 2021 because of Covid-19 security issues, but Morris says the county is looking at developing new youth facilities in the west.

“An important project for the board is to explore the potential of a centre of excellence in West Wales. Many of the most famous cricketers in our history have emerged from the region and we need to provide indoor and outdoor facilities for the (future) Alan Joneses and Don Shepherds.

“If we are to compete for talent with the Scarlets, the Ospreys and Swansea City, we will need to provide talented boys and girls with the appropriate facilities to develop their skills,” Morris told members.

He emphasised the club’s commitment to developing women’s and girls’ cricket through the Western Storm set-up, which is run jointly with Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Morris also revealed his hopes that the new Hundred franchise tournament, which includes the Cardiff-based Welsh Fire, would expand the sport’s appeal in Wales.

“It was a shame the inaugural year of the Hundred was postponed, but we are looking forward to hosting Welsh Fire matches in Cardiff and using the tournament to reach diverse audiences,” he explained.

Glamorgan have begun intra-squad matches at Sophia Gardens and after pre-season friendlies, they will start their official season with a four-day game away to Yorkshire on 8 April.

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