Exclusive: Yorkshire left stumped as scorer quits over troubled pavilion row

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YORKSHIRE’s electronic scoreboard operator has resigned in protest over the fact he cannot see the scoreboard from his seat in the ground.

Duncan Eccles, who worked at Yorkshire for 22 years, has quit because his position in the new £21m Carnegie Pavilion does not allow him to view the equipment he is operating.

Eccles said he flagged up the problem before work even started on the controversial pavilion at Headingley cricket ground.

Yorkshire insist they have done their best to accommodate him but are unable to provide a different vantage point.

Prior to last July, Eccles and fellow scoreboard operator Bob Dale worked from the old press box in the Rugby Stand.

This gave them a clear view of the electronic scoreboard/giant replay screen in the North-East Stand, which they operated via computer.

But when press, players and Yorkshire staff moved over to the new pavilion, viewing arrangements deteriorated dramatically. Eccles and Dale were moved into a room on the top floor with the two scorers and matchday announcer, which provides an enviable panorama of Leeds itself but a restricted view of the scoreboard and surrounds.

“I said before a single stone of the new pavilion had been laid that my viewing position would not be good enough,” said Eccles, a Yorkshire life member.

“But Yorkshire said, ‘Don’t worry, you will have the best view in county cricket.’

“As I predicted, I couldn’t see the scoreboard properly and I couldn’t see the play properly.

“On top of that, we were so high up the players looked like match-stick men.

“The fact is, I no longer think I can provide an accurate service for the Yorkshire supporters.

“You find yourself asking, ‘Where has that ball gone?’ or ‘Who took that catch?’

‘If you can’t see what you’re doing, what’s the point?”

Eccles’s predicament highlights a fundamental problem with the new pavilion.

Namely, it doubles up as a university teaching facility and is not used exclusively by Yorkshire.

Leeds Metropolitan University paid £14m towards the pavilion’s cost, and many of the rooms are used by their students.

Yorkshire – some £20m in debt – only pay rent to Leeds Met to use some of the rooms, which means even unoccupied rooms to which Eccles could potentially be moved are, effectively, out of bounds.

“I was told by Yorkshire that due to the agreement with Leeds Met and the club’s ongoing financial situation, I would be back in the same room again this season,” he added.

“That wasn’t acceptable from my point of view.

“I tolerated the situation for the second half of last summer but it wasn’t something I was prepared to put up with again.

“Last season, we only got by because either Bob or myself managed to get on the front row where we were just about able to see the electronic scoreboard if we craned our necks, but it was far from ideal.

“I’m sad not to be doing the job anymore because I’ve done it for a long time and really enjoyed it,” he said.

“I’d been there 22 years through thick and thin – mostly thin with the stuff we’ve had to operate with – and took pride in doing the best job possible. But you can’t enjoy what you’re doing if you can’t see what you’re doing.

“You might miss a wicket, or someone hitting a four, and if something goes wrong with the scoreboard you’ve got to be able to see the scoreboard to correct things.”

Eccles is not the only one unhappy with the new facilities.

Several Yorkshire players are thought to be unimpressed with their viewing arrangements, while the media facilities have also been criticised.

Although the press box is highly impressive and well-appointed, the press are only allowed to use it for international fixtures as it also serves as a lecture theatre.

For county games, the press are moved into a room similar to the one occupied by Eccles, which does not give everyone a comprehensive view.

“I know there have been quite a few complaints about the facilities,” added Eccles.

“The visiting scorers were always complaining last season and one even wrote to Lord’s to say the room we had was not fit for purpose. When Johnny Dennis (the ECB’s matchday announcer), came for the Test match between Australia and Pakistan, he was incandescent.

“When he came back for the one-day international in September, he insisted on being moved back to his old place in the other stand.”

David Ryder, Yorkshire’s stadium facilities manager, admitted the situation was not ideal.

“The room in question is specifically wired-up for the scoreboard operators and we’re not in a position to unwire it and move it all somewhere else,” he said.

“We simply can’t do that this year because a lot of the rooms are booked out by Leeds Met, and we can’t just rent out another room because money is scarce and budgets are tight.

“It isn’t an ideal situation and we hope things will improve in the medium-term.

“We were able to move Johnny Dennis back across for one game, but it wouldn’t be an option to move our own scoreboard operators back there for county matches because we would have to re-feed all the cables over.”

The distinctive Carnegie Pavilion, which has more windows than an advent calendar, was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester during the Australia versus Pakistan Test.

The game was a financial disaster, Yorkshire losing around £1m after trading their England-Bangladesh Test match specifically to stage it.

The club recently announced a £2m loss for 2010 and are budgeted to lose a further £1m this year.

chris.waters@ypn.co.uk