Virtually certain that Yorkshire CCC will be major force this summer

The Yorkshire County Cricket Club annual meeting was pre-recorded this year and broadcast online to members on Saturday morning.

New signing: Lockie Ferguson. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

One of the great advantages of a move brought about by the coronavirus restrictions was that the whole thing was done and dusted in 30 minutes instead of dragging on for the usual two hours-plus.

With no live questions from the floor, so to speak, with club officials basically updating via a Zoom call conducted in-house the previous day, it meant that matters were not interminably delayed while some disgruntled punter droned on about the quality of soap in the East Stand toilets or why his season ticket had turned up in the post bearing a slight smudge mark that could only be seen through a microscope.

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“Every cloud…”, as the old saying goes, and if Carlsberg did agms then club officials might well concur that ones without any members actually present are preferable to having to face them all in the Long Room while wearing tin hats and full body armour as the barbs and brickbats fly hither and thither.

Spin threat: Dom Bess.

In truth, the days when the Yorkshire board had to check their life insurance policies before turning up to the agm, just in case, have long been consigned to the pages of history.

An era of comparative calm has descended on Yorkshire cricket, and although it is six years since the club won silverware, hopes are high that plenty of celebratory Carlsbergs will be supped later this summer, with chief executive Mark Arthur telling the virtual audience that he believes that Yorkshire have their strongest squad since he joined in 2013, a significant statement given that they won back-to-back Championships in 2014 and 2015 and almost did the hat-trick in 2016.

“Cricket is a game of statistics and opinion, and I am of the opinion that this is the strongest squad of players to have been assembled in my nine seasons at the club,” said Arthur, with Yorkshire having recently added England off-spinner Dom Bess and New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson to their ranks.

Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, agreed.

“We feel that we’ve now got a squad that’s capable of competing in all competitions,” he said. “Our younger players have shown their potential, the hard work has been done during the winter, and the key now is for the players to believe in themselves and trust their processes.

“It really is time, I think, to grasp the opportunity that’s lying ahead of them.”

Initially, those players will have to do that behind closed doors.

Arthur confirmed that Yorkshire expect their first three Championship home games to proceed without spectators, with the government’s so-called “roadmap” not permitting their presence until May 17.

“Members would have first priority to book seats for all matches until such time as the government says there are no longer restrictions,” he added. “Along with other counties, we will also be offering an enhanced streaming service, which proved popular last year.”

Moxon said the return of crowds could not come soon enough.

“We certainly missed you last year,” he told those watching the agm. “It’s not the same playing behind closed doors, and the players are desperate for you to be able to come back and watch us, and we hope that we can give you some great entertainment to make up for lost time.”

Roger Hutton, the Yorkshire chairman, spoke of the “deep debt of gratitude” the club owes its members, some 85 per cent of whom donated their fees last year in a move that saved Yorkshire around £600,000.

“I guess if there’s one message – and this is the most important thing I’m going to say – it’s that we have a deep debt of gratitude and a massive thank-you to so many people,” he stressed.

“There are whole categories of people. First and foremost, the members. The support that you’ve shown throughout this period has been critical. In addition, there has been the support of our sponsors, continuing to sponsor when so little cricket got played and there was nobody in the ground.

“Thirdly, the ECB, and last but not least the employees of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, who all took pay cuts, went on furlough yet worked tirelessly when they could to ensure the survival of the club.

“For all of those four groups it was a phenomenal and important achievement. Without any of them, this club would not be in the position it is today.”

That position, as finance director Paul Hudson reiterated, was to emerge from an anticipated loss of circa £2m for the financial year to what ended up being a deficit of around £125,000. Help from the club’s members, the ECB and furlough income all played its part.

After James Carr updated on women’s cricket, it was left only to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Geoff Cope was re-elected president; Moxon and Hanif Malik were re-elected to the board; Trevor Strain was appointed to the board and Howard Ray re-elected to the members’ committee.

So ended the strangest – and shortest – agm in Yorkshire’s history, with not a tin hat or disgruntled punter in sight.

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