Sean Jarvis adding Huddersfield Town’s Terriers spirit to the mix at Leicestershire CCC

A CHERISHED photograph hangs in the office of Sean Jarvis, the chief executive of Leicestershire County Cricket Club.

Grace and favour: Leicestershire CCC chief executive Sean Jarvis at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.

It is of Christopher Schindler scoring the winning goal for Huddersfield Town in the 2017 Championship play-off final penalty shoot-out against Reading.

Jarvis, who was then the Terriers’ commercial director, before joining Leicestershire CCC last June, has it there to remind him of that memorable day at Wembley when David Wagner’s men reached the promised land of the Premier League.

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But, as much as he will always treasure the image, Jarvis ideally wants to take it down and replace it with a new one of sporting glory at the Uptonsteel County Ground – the official new name, as of only last week, of the venue formerly known as Grace Road.

MAGIC MOMENT: Huddersfield Town's Christopher Schindler scores the winning penalty in the 2017 Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley against Reading. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

“That photo adorns my office down here at Leicestershire, but it’s up there for a purpose,” says Jarvis.

“Every time Paul Nixon (the Leicestershire head coach) comes into my office, I say to him, ‘It’s your task to bring that photo down.’

“So, in other words, he has to give me another special moment with Leicestershire so that we can replace it with a picture of some cricket silverware.

“It haunts Paul Nixon, really, but that’s our aim.”

In the dugout: Sean Jarvis during his time as the commercial director of Huddersfield Town. Picture: Tony Johnson

Jarvis, 54, is infectiously ambitious as he, Nixon and everyone at Leicestershire CCC aims to put the club back on the map.

On the face of it, it is a tall order given that Leicestershire have long languished in the lower reaches of the County Championship.

But the club reached last year’s T20 quarter-finals, losing to eventual winners Nottinghamshire, and Jarvis need look no further than his own experiences at Huddersfield to confirm the verity that from small acorns mighty oaks grow.

When he joined Huddersfield in 2006, the club was languishing in League One, and the prospect that it would once again rub shoulders with the big boys in league action was a distant dream.

CHALLENGE: Paul Nixon, head Coach of Leicestershire CCC, pictured at Grace Road last year. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images.

“I look back very fondly on my time at Huddersfield, and it was an incredible journey to go from languishing in League One to the Premier League,” he recalls.

“I remember in my first week there was a demonstration outside; I think we’d been beaten by Yeovil.

“Despite the subsequent relegation from the Premier League, and the battle in the Championship last year, I reflect with immense pride on what was achieved at the John Smith’s Stadium, and I learned a lot of good practice in my time at the club: how you develop and move up the pyramid, and so on.

“I’ve tried to bring a lot of that to Leicestershire because Huddersfield, equally, is a challenger brand – in other words, a club that bites the heels of the bigger clubs.”

On home ground: Sean Jarvis.

To say that Jarvis took over at a challenging time in cricket is an understatement.

Like all counties, the Foxes have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the English game having collectively lost upwards of £100m.

“It’s been incredibly challenging since the pandemic began and then from me joining the club in June,” he says.

“At that time, nobody was sure as to what was going to happen, whether there was going to be any cricket behind closed doors, and there were decisions to be made on furloughing staff, contracts needed renewing on players, and things like that, so it was really difficult.

“In sport, we’re almost, to a degree, recession-proof, because people would come and watch sport as a bit of a relief from what might be happening in the economy, but sport has been devastated by not having crowds, just as other businesses have been devastated, of course.

“So it was completely new, a real challenge, and you’re staring down the barrel of a gun basically.”

Jarvis, however, looked for the plusses. He calls it “pressing the reset button”.

“What we did was use the time to try to rediscover ourselves. It was about us understanding what we stood for as a club, what it meant to be a player or a member of staff of Leicestershire County Cricket Club, and what I did was use a lot of the skills and information I picked up from my time at Huddersfield Town when David Wagner joined, when the club rediscovered its identity, its ‘Terrier Spirit’.

“Previously, the Academy and first team were a bit disjointed at Leicestershire, so we’ve brought them together and created what we call ‘A Leicestershire Way’.

“It very much reflects what David Wagner and everybody did at Huddersfield in that golden period really, and what we’re looking for is the stars to align as well.”

Jarvis is candid as he reflects on how Leicestershire has latterly been perceived.

It has gained the reputation of an also-ran, one whose name invariably crops up whenever people talk about reducing the number of first-class counties.

He concedes that the club had “lost its way, lost its credibility and lost its respect to a certain degree”, but that “we’re now bringing it back and undertaking a quiet revolution”.

Membership is rising, commercial partnerships are growing, and there is a positive outlook around the grand club.

“Over the last decade, if you look at Leicestershire, I think it’s struggled for many reasons,” he says.

“Probably you would say that one of the big ones is that it didn’t really know who it was; there were a lot of Kolpak players, a lot of journeymen who came, did their thing and then moved on, so there was no continuity or plan to it, and it definitely lacked that sense of identity.

“But Leicestershire is an ‘Academy of Cricket’ and that’s always been in our DNA; the club has helped to bring through top players like Stuart Broad and James Taylor, players who’ve come through the ranks and then moved on.

“While we accept that of course, and understand our position within the game, we hope that, in future, there may be a tipping point where the best players decide that they want to stay at Leicestershire because of what’s happening here; equally, we want to develop and encourage our off-field staff, too.”

For Jarvis, life has basically come full circle.

Born and brought up in Leicester, before moving to study and work in Yorkshire, he is back at a club that means a great deal to the Jarvis family.

“My dad, Larry, was a big cricket man in Leicestershire and his ashes were scattered on the pitch,” he says.

“He was an umpire in the local leagues, and he also umpired a lot of second XI cricket, so I’m especially keen to give something back.

“It’s bizarre. When I came into this role, all the staff here knew my dad. ‘Oh, you’re Larry’s lad,’ they’d say, and this was the very first sports ground I came to as a kid.

“I actually still live in Yorkshire – I travel down and spend my week down here and go back up at the weekends – and I see this as giving back to my first club and to my home town.

“It’s a fantastic club, and the people are brilliant.”

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