Chris Waters: Disgruntled members throw stones at £21m ‘greenhouse’

YORKSHIRE’s executive chairman Colin Graves launched a notable defence of the club’s controversial £21m Carnegie Pavilion during Saturday’s annual meeting at Headingley.

Graves described it as “one of the best facilities in English cricket” and claimed the club had received numerous positive comments.

“The pavilion is fantastic as far as I’m concerned,” enthused Graves. “The same goes for everyone else in cricket.”

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At the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, one wondered to whom Graves was actually referring.

Was he referring to Yorkshire’s electronic scoreboard operator, who resigned in protest over the fact his seat in the pavilion does not afford him a view of the electronic scoreboard?

Was he referring to Yorkshire’s players, some of whom were said to be so unhappy with their facilities they wanted to move back to their old position on the other side of the ground?

Was he referring to Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who was heard to remark during last summer’s Australia versus Pakistan Test: “If we ever have to come back to this place again, it will be too soon.”

Was he referring to the written press, who are not allowed to use the press box for county games because it is used as a lecture theatre by Leeds Met students?

Was he referring to the scorers, match referees and umpires, many of whom have complained about their risibly inadequate facilities?

Was he referring to Yorkshire’s supporters, who are not allowed to sit in the pavilion because it is, first and foremost, a teaching faculty?

The pavilion might be one of the best educational establishments in Christendom for all I know, but one of the best facilities in English cricket?

Richard Levin, elected to the Yorkshire members’ committee during Saturday’s meeting, spoke for many when he responded to Graves’s claims: “It’s interesting to hear you make the comments about the new pavilion.

“I think most of us in this room will have to take your word for that because, as members, we’re not allowed admission to our new pavilion, which I’m pretty certain makes us unique in the world of cricket, that members aren’t allowed into their own pavilion.”

Graves said the club intend to hold open days next season so members can go in and look around.

Well, if it’s not too much trouble...

When the myriad problems with the pavilion were flagged from the floor, Graves responded in defiant style. “Don’t believe everything you read in the press because they generally exaggerate things,” he said, thereby hiding behind one of the weakest of all arguments.

The fact is, the Carnegie Pavilion, as one irate member put it on Saturday, is “an eyesore”.

Indeed, when one Yorkshire official told me some years ago the club wanted to build an iconic pavilion, I think I must have misheard him. On reflection, he must have said chronic pavilion.

It is the antithesis of good taste and has more windows than a shelf-ful of advent calendars.

Another member told Graves at the meeting: “You might think the pavilion is marvellous, but I disagree. In fact, I think it looks like somebody’s greenhouse.

“It’s dreadful.

“I know we’re not allowed to sit in it, but is there any chance we could put our potted plants in there?”

Of course, one sympathises with Yorkshire in the sense the pavilion does not belong entirely to them.

The club – a whopping £20m in debt – can only afford to rent some of the rooms from Leeds Met University, who put £14m towards the pavilion’s cost.

Some Yorkshire officials believe – rightly in my view – that it is better to have any pavilion than none at all.

But instead of trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, a little humility would not go amiss.

Yorkshire are presently taking steps to improve the facilities.

They had no choice.

After last year’s Test and one-day international, the England and Wales Cricket Board told them to make changes.

Last week, Richard Kaye, the club’s sales director, told the Yorkshire Post: “We are improving the accommodation for the players in terms of the home and away dressing rooms.

“We are also improving the fittings and furnishings, with improvements to lockers and that sort of thing. In addition, we are responding as best we can to various observations made by matchday officials.

“By working in conjunction with ECB, we are identifying and rectifying operational issues.”

No one would doubt Graves’s financial commitment to Yorkshire. As chairman of the multi-million pound Costcutter supermarket chain, he has delved into his voluminous pockets to assist the club.

But a man who would never take a sledgehammer to crack a nut if a chainsaw was available, generally gets an easy ride from Yorkshire members.

Mindful of the cash he has pumped in, they seem fearful of saying anything remotely critical of him and his administration.

But the simple truth is, the pavilion is not one of the best facilities in English cricket.

Indeed, from a purely cricketing point of view – never mind the appalling aesthetics – it is one of the worst.

Moreover, the current Yorkshire administration, in many ways, has fared no better than the previous one.

That administration was viciously pilloried by Graves and the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ when they took over in 2002.

Last year, Yorkshire recorded a £2m loss – roughly £1m of which was attributable to a calamitous decision by Graves and the board to stage the Australia-Pakistan Test, a decision they have attempted to pass off as simple bad luck – like finding yourself caught in a cloudburst without an umbrella.

Another £1m is forecast to be lost this year, while Yorkshire’s financial problems are such that the planned development of the Rugby Stand will not take place for at least five years.

Still, do not believe everything you read in the press.

We do tend to exaggerate things, you know.

Illingworth stays at helm

FORMER Yorkshire and England captain Raymond Illingworth was re-elected club president on Saturday.

Illingworth (496 first-class games for Yorkshire, 14,986 runs and 1,431 wickets) was a splendid ambassador in his first year in office.

He strengthened links between current and former players – links that continue to be reinforced through the Yorkshire Players’ Association.

Gareth Davies, of Leeds Met University, was appointed the university’s representative on the Yorkshire board, while Robin Smith was re-elected a club director.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was appointed an honorary life member, and Brian Bouttell and David Hall were elected vice-presidents.

Yorkshire’s finance director Charles Hartwell reported that 12,000 tickets have been sold for the one-day international between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley on July 1, with more than 1,000 hospitality packages also sold.

Headingley is without a Test match this year, but it is scheduled to stage a Test and one-day international each year thereafter until 2019.

The staging agreement to host internationals then runs out and Yorkshire will need to bid for a new one.