THURSDAY POLL: Arthur the right man for the job to oversee Yorkshire’s ambitious plans

The proposed North/South Stand overlooking the Headingley Cricket Ground.
The proposed North/South Stand overlooking the Headingley Cricket Ground.
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WHEN it comes to developing and improving cricket grounds, Mark Arthur has form.

The Yorkshire chief executive helped Trent Bridge become one of the leading venues in world cricket when he was chief executive of Nottinghamshire in the 1990s.

Arthur played a major role in the creation of the Radcliffe Road Stand, one of the finest facilities in cricket.

As legacies go, it is not a bad one to have left the game that he loves.

Except Arthur has not yet finished leaving legacies.

Along with Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves and the club’s board, he is now driving a £50m masterplan designed to transform Headingley cricket ground over the next 20 years.

It is an essential upgrade to help keep international cricket at Leeds post-2019, at which point Yorkshire are no longer guaranteed to host England games as part of the deal struck with the England and Wales Cricket Board when the club bought the ground in 2005.

The development will include the installation of permanent floodlights, a new shared cricket/rugby stand and even a new cricket pavilion some years down the line.

It will be a fluid plan based on funds available/priorities at the time.

Of course, the inevitable question – given that Yorkshire are around £24m in debt – is how are they going to afford it?

The pavilion project, costing £15-20m, is a long way down the priority list, more the cherry on the cake than the foundation stone, but the new cricket/rugby stand (or North/South Stand), costing circa £15m, of which Yorkshire must find half, will hopefully be up when the club’s international staging agreement ends.

Nor are the floodlights going to come cheap. Although planning permission was granted last week, Yorkshire must still find £1.1m to get them in place.

Over to Arthur …

“When it comes to the floodlights, we had a board meeting on Tuesday and we have a strategy for how we are going to raise the funds, but we can’t go into it at this moment in time,” he said.

“But it will definitely happen; for the 2015 cricket season, we will have the floodlights up, which will not only help us in terms of hosting international cricket, but enable us to start our T20 matches at the later time of 7pm rather than 5.30pm.

“This will allow people to get away from work, get themselves together, and allow the Friday night traffic congestion to ease so they can get here in time to enjoy the whole match.

“Further down the line, although not at this moment, it will enable us to bid for things like Twenty20 Finals Day.”

Prior to that, Yorkshire want to get the North/South stand redeveloped.

“Again, we do have a plan in place regarding the funding, but we are not able to make that public at the moment,” said Arthur.

“In an ideal world, we would commence construction at the end of the 2017 season and have it complete prior to the 2019 season, when we are going to be hosting an Ashes Test match and when we also hope, as a city, to be one of the host venues for the World Cup.

“The new stand would raise the ground’s capacity from 17,090 at present to 19,210, while the overall capacity at the end of the masterplan would be 20,362.”

Although the new pavilion is a long way off, it is the most striking aspect of the new proposals.

Yorkshire share their current pavilion with Leeds Met, which is about as ideal as being hit on the head by a cricket ball.

It is, in effect, a cricket club welded to a student facility; the main press box, for example, is a lecture theatre.

Yorkshire do not have access to all rooms, facilities for players and coaches are not ideal, and a new pavilion – which would be adjacent to the current one and identical in height – would be a fantastic achievement if Arthur and co could make it happen.

“I’m very much a cricket traditionalist and I think it would be fantastic to have a traditional pavilion,” said Arthur, who revealed it would have a Victorian look. “That’s obviously way down our list of priorities, but it would be great to have a purpose-built cricket pavilion which afforded us fantastic changing facilities for the players and gave members their own area too, with a traditional Long Room. There would be rooms we could use 365 days of the year, and although I would stress that we enjoy a wonderful relationship with Leeds Met University, it would be an awful lot easier if the cricket element of our operation was in one building.

“We could be talking 20 years away with that, but it’s something we’d really love to do.”

There are no specific dates/costings for the rest of the project, merely a commitment by Yorkshire to transform Headingley. Commonsense and prudence will remain their watchwords.

“When you are over £20m in debt, some people, if you put a specific date on things, would laugh you in the face and say, ‘How the hell are you going to afford that?’” said Arthur. “That’s why you can’t be time-specific on a masterplan, but you can say that this is how we want Headingley to look, this is our vision.”