Chris Waters: Not fit for purpose – time looming for us to say farewell to a grand old friend

A General View of the Football Stand end of the ground as Yorkshire hosts Hampshire on Friday (Picture: SWPix.com)
A General View of the Football Stand end of the ground as Yorkshire hosts Hampshire on Friday (Picture: SWPix.com)
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NOTHING lasts forever.

Not pre-Brexit Britain.

Time to say goodbye to the Football Stand end of the ground.

Time to say goodbye to the Football Stand end of the ground.

Not the world before T20.

Not even the youthful good looks of yours truly (why are you sniggering?).

All things must pass, as the old saying goes.

Another thing shortly destined for the scrapheap of history is the main stand at Headingley.

The stand’s low roof means that you can watch the match without contorting your eyes into a permanent squint, which is particularly useful on the sunniest of days. It’s the sort of place where a shabby old coat is necessary even on the warmest of afternoons.

Chris Waters

Although it is clearly a ramshackle old wreck, part of me will be sorry to see it go.

Perhaps that is because the stand – built in 1932 – appeals to a ramshackle old wreck such as myself, a place where it is easy to hide yourself away – with a sly hip flask if necessary – to watch the glorious anachronism of the County Championship.

The stand, dilapidated and creaking, is as much of a throwback as the competition, a creation that belongs to a different era.

Alas, it is being demolished this year in the name of progress – subject to Leeds City Council’s executive board giving the green light on Wednesday to a multi-million redevelopment of Headingley stadium.

Yorkshire's Peter Handscomb dives to avoid being run out against Hampshire on day one (Picture: SWPix.com)

Yorkshire's Peter Handscomb dives to avoid being run out against Hampshire on day one (Picture: SWPix.com)

Why is this necessary?

Because, quite simply, the stand is no longer fit for purpose if Headingley wants to remain as an international venue, which it most certainly does.

Indeed, Yorkshire have been told by the England and Wales Cricket Board that the ground no longer meets ‘International Facilities Policy’, which means that unless they bring it up to speed immediately, they will lose international cricket post-2019.

The ins-and-outs of this are well known by now, suffice to say that the main stand – also known as the Football Stand, or the Rugby Stand – has had its day.

It was built in the summer that Yorkshire’s Hedley Verity took 10 for 10 against Notts, and it will come down in an era that has more empathy with the numbers “20-20” than “10-10”.

Usually, the spectators who sit in this stand have little time for Twenty20.

Talk of it is brief, and usually only in colourful disparagement.

Indeed, the only time that you hear the term “T20” uttered is in sentences that also contain phrases such as “not proper cricket” or “ruddy rubbish”, or words to that effect.

The format, in short, is viewed with suspicion.

Also viewed with suspicion are any “outsiders” who enter the main stand, which is a bit like a village in that everyone usually knows everyone else.

The stand contains a certain kind of cricket watcher, the kind that is fiercely loyal and protective of its cricketing values.

It is the kind of watcher that keeps the County Championship going, the kind that will not be replaced when its generation has gone.

I have always had a soft spot for the main stand for the simple reason that it offers one of the best views in county cricket.

It is quite dreadful to look at but very pleasant to look out from – give or take the odd Carnegie Pavilion diminishing the view.

The stand’s low roof means that you can watch the match without contorting your eyes into a permanent squint, which is particularly useful on the sunniest of days.

Indeed, for non sun-worshippers such as myself, the stand is gloriously shielded from the sun full-stop, the sort of place where a shabby old coat is necessary even on the warmest of afternoons.

It is the sort of place, too, where old habits and customs die hard among the natives.

The sound of a mobile telephone ring tone, for example, is greeted as an appalling interruption, as though someone has let off a firework in the British Library.

If the person with the phone actually has the temerity to answer the call and start speaking, there is a chorus of mumbles and disapproving looks.

I like that hugely.

It is not a place for the trendy and technologically swish.

The patrons of the stand are very much old school.

They sit with scorebooks on their laps, sometimes with different coloured pens to record different aspects of the unfolding drama.

They carry a variety of bags and holdalls, which contain flasks, sandwiches, and very often a rolled-up copy of The Yorkshire Post complete with a big hole punched through the byline picture of its dreadful cricket correspondent.

“That bloody Waters. What does he know about it? Nine-tenths of beggar all...”

Yes, part of me will be sorry to see the old stand go.

Why, if the new one is even half as good... or maybe not.