Stand reprieve helps pack them in for Roses T20 encounter

YORKSHIRE’s historic rugby stand could earn a reprieve after fears it would be forced to close due to safety reasons.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: New cricket floodlights at Headingley Stadium. Picture: Tony Johnson.
LET THERE BE LIGHT: New cricket floodlights at Headingley Stadium. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Part of the upper tier was condemned due to corrosion and the club feared the rest of the structure could also be unsafe.

But chief executive Mark Arthur said the majority of the stand – which dates back to 1932 – could be saved after a structural engineer’s report revealed the problems might not be as bad as first feared.

Yorkshire could still lose all or part of the upper tier but the lower tier – which might have been susceptible to vibration and caused part of the upper tier to crumble – should not be affected.

Arthur told The Yorkshire Post: “We still haven’t got the matter entirely resolved but it looks as if we will have one of two options.

“Either to close the upper tier of the stand completely or take out the first two rows and make remedial repairs to the front of the balustrade, where some of the plaster has come away and which is not safe if somebody were to lean against it.

“The bottom line is, the news is far more positive than it was a few weeks ago.

“We’re now looking at what the various costs might be and are going through all that at the present moment.”

Yorkshire initially feared such costs would be prohibitive as the double-sided stand – which is shared with rugby clubs Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Carnegie, who play on the adjoining ground – is due to be rebuilt from 2017 anyway in time for the 2019 season.

The rugby operation would not have been affected as spectators do not use or gain access via that part of the stand, but the cricket club estimated it would lose around £130,000 if the stand was forced to shut for two years and, by definition, never be used again due to the proposed £15m redevelopment starting in two years.

Yorkshire took the decision to suspend ticket sales for the stand in case repairs proved to be more expensive than ticket income and had reserved alternative seats for spectators.

But concerns that the stand damage would impact more than nominally on the sell-out crowds they normally get each year for their home Twenty20 game against Lancashire and for the Headingley one-day international, which this year sees England face Australia on September 11, appear unfounded.

“We would have lost in the region of 1,500 of capacity if the whole stand was forced to close,” said Arthur.

“If the upper tier was closed entirely, we would lose something in the region of 40 per cent of available seats in the stand.

“Now, in the best-case scenario, we would only lose the two rows at the front, which would be a nominal number of seats.

“Of course, the fact that the rugby stand has had these problems emphasises the importance of redeveloping the ground and keeping it up to international standard.”

One key aspect of Yorkshire’s bid to retain international cricket going forward is the erection of permanent floodlights, which is now an International Cricket Council requirement for staging games.

Yorkshire have spent circa £1m on their new lights, which are going up at present with two of the four masts now in position.

The lights, which have been developed by Abacus Limited, are 56 metres tall and each head frame will be shaped to resemble the Yorkshire white rose.

The first scheduled game under the lights will be Yorkshire’s opening home NatWest T20 Blast match against Derbyshire on Friday, May 15 (7pm start).

“The masts are looking magnificent,” said Arthur.

“We’re really pleased with the design, and there will be a terrific atmosphere at Headingley under the lights.”