Headingley proves just the ticket for 2018

England captain Joe Root leads his team out with Jonny Bairstow for the final day of the test match at Headingley against the West Indies.
England captain Joe Root leads his team out with Jonny Bairstow for the final day of the test match at Headingley against the West Indies.
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YORKSHIRE CCC say they are “blown away” by “unprecedented” ticket sales for their international matches next summer at a critical time for Headingley’s future.

The club have already sold 50 per cent of tickets for their one-day international against India on July 17 and 18 per cent for their Test against Pakistan starting on June 1, despite having only gone on general sale on Tuesday.

It represents a 106 per cent year-on-year increase in ODI performance and a 58 per cent year-on-year increase in Test performance, and comes as the England and Wales Cricket Board ponder the allocation of international games for the period 2020-2024, plus host venues for the city-based T20 tournament starting in 2020.

The governing body will announce their decisions in February, with Yorkshire’s case further strengthened after they revealed that they came top of a customer satisfaction survey for Tests in England last season.

Each Test-hosting venue asked ticket-buyers to rate them out of 10 on elements such as atmosphere, stewarding and speed of queues, and Yorkshire’s average mark for the Headingley Test against West Indies was 8.8.

The club believe that they are raising their game at a pivotal moment, with Headingley one of eight grounds vying to stage seven Tests each year, two of which presently go to Lord’s as the self-styled “home of cricket”.

The English Test summer is set to reduce from seven Tests to six from 2020 (five in Ashes years), with MCC confirming that Lord’s will continue to push for two Tests each year.

But Yorkshire, whose chief executive Mark Arthur recently insisted that Headingley can become one of the top-four Test venues in the country once its new main stand is ready in 2019, are hopeful that they will be an integral part of the new international landscape.

Andy Dawson, Yorkshire CCC’s commercial director, told The Yorkshire Post: “This is such an important time for the club. The ECB’s host venue panel are awarding internationals for 2020-2024 and the venues that they will use for the city-based T20 competition, and it’s crucial for us to be able to demonstrate that the Yorkshire public are supporting Headingley as an international ground.

“That’s why we’ve been blown away by ticket sales already for next year’s internationals, which have seen unprecedented demand, certainly for non-Ashes matches, and hopefully we’ll be high up on the ECB’s criteria.

“They will use a number of criteria (for awarding games), from the support of the public and the customer experience that we can provide, along with the impact on the community as a whole in terms of inspiring the next generation of cricketers and fans.”

ECB venue officials were at Headingley for the opening day of the West Indies Test in August.

The match was a great success from Yorkshire’s perspective, with West Indies winning a thrilling game watched by an aggregate crowd of 56,005.

Ticket sales were £200,000 up on the previous year’s Test against Sri Lanka, generating around £1.6m in ticket revenue, and Yorkshire hope to hit that figure again next year for the visit of Pakistan (despite a reduced capacity of 12,500 due to the construction of the new main stand), and to generate around £700,000 in ticket revenue from the India ODI.

“Our ambition is to have a regular summer Test going forward and, importantly, an Ashes Test in 2023,” said Dawson. “We missed out on Ashes Tests in 2013 and 2015 but hope that we will be considered for a 2023 Test against Australia.

“In the short-term, we hope to sell out next year’s India ODI before Christmas, and then the first three days of the Pakistan Test from spring onwards. But ticket sales have surpassed anything we’ve done non-Ashes-wise, with great support from the followers of India and Pakistan, with Indian fans, for example, coming back in even bigger numbers after their favourable experiences at Headingley in the past.”

Dawson believes that ticket demand is down to several factors. He feels the club have become “more sophisticated” in how they market and promote games, making better use of customer data and also priority windows for members and those who have previously bought tickets.

He feels that ticket prices have become more affordable, with prices ranging from £20 for adults for the first three days of the Pakistan Test, and also cites the “passion and enthusiasm” of CEO Mark Arthur, now in his fifth year at the helm, who is “moving the club forward at pace”.

Dawson also pinpoints attention to detail. “Sports coaches often talk about the aggregation of marginal gains, and ensuring that the one percenters help you improve, and we do the same,” he said.

“We try to make sure that all those little one percenters are, if you like, 100 per cent better to ensure continued and sustained improvement.”