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Stewart Regan: We have progressed on and off the field

STEWART REGAN last night spelled out his legacy to Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

The departing chief executive, who leaves his post today after four-and-a-half years to become CEO of the Scottish Football Association, has pinpointed five areas he believes he has made a difference.

Regan said he was proud of:

Overseeing the development of Headingley Carnegie into "one of the top four international grounds in the country" and thereby protecting the venue's international status.

Stabilising Yorkshire's financial position by presiding over four successive annual profits, despite an overall club debt of around 18m.

Helping develop a number of new and successful partnerships in the public and private sector, most notably with Leeds Met University.

Improving the club's public image and forging better media relations.

Helping develop greater links with the local Asian community.

Regan said he was leaving the club in better shape than when he joined and predicted Yorkshire's financial position would improve from 2012, after which they are guaranteed a Test and one-day international until 2019.

The club have had to make a handful of office staff redundant to help them through the current financial storm but Regan said the core business was "sound and sustainable".

Regan, whose departure will save Yorkshire more than 150,000 over the coming year, took over three months after Yorkshire bought Headingley cricket ground for 12m from landlords Leeds Cricket, Football & Athletic Company with the help of a 9m loan from Leeds City Council.

He cited the ground improvements since then – most notably the construction of the new 21m Carnegie Pavilion, right, opened this summer – as the high point of his tenure.

"When I first arrived and was shown around the facilities, the people who were showing me around were quite embarrassed about things like the dressing rooms and the media facilities," said Regan.

"The old Wintershed was the only hospitality facility we had; the rest of the hospitality facilities were owned by Leeds Rugby.

"Since then, with the construction of the new pavilion and improvements like the new replay screen and drainage system, we've moved forward massively in terms of facilities.

"I would put Headingley now in the top four international grounds in the country alongside Lord's, The Oval and Trent Bridge."

The pavilion project was key to bringing the ground up to accepted standards to host international cricket.

Yorkshire face increasing competition to stage England games from the likes of Durham's Chester-le-Street ground and the Hampshire Rose Bowl.

"Protecting the long-term future of international cricket in Yorkshire was one of my big objectives," added Regan.

"The pavilion development was key to that aspiration and we pushed it through at just the right time.

"If you think of what's happened since the contract was signed in February last year, I'm not sure we would have achieved it in the current climate.

"Since then, we've had cuts to Higher Education funding, making it questionable whether Leeds Met would have had the money to do the deal; we've had changes to the Leeds Met structure, with the vice-chancellor moving on and a new one coming in; we've had Yorkshire Forward and government cuts, and the economic climate has got worse."

Regan, whom Yorkshire are not expected to replace for at least nine months as chairman Colin Graves steps up to the role of executive chairman, said partnerships were key to protecting the club's future.

"I'm pleased that I've been able to help develop partnerships with the public and private sector because that's very important for the club going forward," he said. "We've recognised we haven't got a particularly strong balance sheet, which means we can't just go out and borrow money, and, equally, we can't offer shares in the club because it's a members' club.

"So the only thing we can do is develop partnerships and encourage others to invest in the club with cash or other resources.

"We've developed fantastic partnerships with the likes of Leeds Met University, Leeds Council, Bradford Council, Marketing Leeds, Welcome To Yorkshire, and so on, and the bottom line is Yorkshire cannot deliver a successful club on their own."

Despite their overheads, Yorkshire have recorded successive annual profits.

"We've had four years of turnover and profit growth, so the club's business model works well," said Regan.

"Going into 2011, there's a stable base and a plan to get Yorkshire through to 2012. From that point there's eight years of international cricket at Headingley with an England Test match and a one-day international every year, which will be financially reassuring."

Although Regan's tenure was not without low points, he made concerted attempts to raise the club's profile.

"I think the club, for the right reasons, had cut everything back when I arrived and they weren't particularly media savvy," he added. "They weren't proactive in sewing seeds with the media, which is something I've tried to do.

" We've improved overall communications with supporters via our in-house magazine and website and although there's still work to do, we've come on leaps and bounds."

One benefit of trying to create a better public image has been improved links with the Asian community.

"We've built strong relationships in that respect," said Regan.

"The signing of Pakistani cricketers such as Younus Khan and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was a help, and we've tried to build bridges with our Asian fan-base.

"We've also had home-grown players like Ajmal Shahzad and Adil Rashid who are great role models, while the appointment of Alison Giles as the club's community marketing manager has helped create better links with the local community in general."

As he prepares to swap Headingley Carnegie for Hampden Park, Regan said his time at Yorkshire had been mutually beneficial.

"If you compare the Yorkshire of 2006 to the Yorkshire of 2010, I think we've made progress on and off the field," he said.

"I've certainly learned a lot during my time at the club and it's been a richly rewarding and enjoyable experience."

 
 
 

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