YORKSHIRE chief executive Mark Arthur has welcomed plans by the England and Wales Cricket Board to scrap the controversial bidding system to stage international matches and to compensate counties for losses in those years when they do not host a Test.
Arthur called it “good news for cricket and good news for Yorkshire” after Colin Graves, the ECB chairman and ex-Yorkshire supremo, revealed that he wants to bring in a new system of allocating major matches to reduce the risk to counties of staging games.
Graves is anxious to avoid a repeat of the ECB’s £3.8m bail-out of Durham, which in turn saw the north-east club relegated from Division One of the County Championship, docked 48 points and stripped of Test status after over-reaching themselves financially, partly in an effort to improve their ground to warrant Test cricket.
The bidding system has pitted county against county and led many into debt due to expensive ground redevelopment work undertaken to keep up with the Jones’s.
Yorkshire, circa £24m in debt, are guaranteed international cricket as part of a staging agreement with the ECB when the club bought the Headingley ground in 2005.
They would face being plunged into the bidding war themselves once that agreement expires in 2019, and Arthur endorses Graves’s plans for a fairer system.
“This is good news for cricket and good news for Yorkshire in that international grounds will be awarded Test cricket on merit,” he said.
“That will include factors such as facilities but also community work, history and tradition, rather than clubs bidding against each other with sums of money that they cannot afford.
“All the international grounds ask for is a model that is fair and equitable, and that provided that we’ve got facilities that are good enough for international cricket, that we’ll all get a fair crack of the whip.
“I think this will be fair and equitable for cricket and also good for Headingley.”
Exact details of Graves’s plans have yet to be revealed, while it remains to be seen how much compensation clubs might receive for missing out on a Test match in any given year. However, the ECB chief wants a much better system.
“I want to change the process so the risk is taken away from the grounds and that risk is shared by the ECB going forward,” he said.
“I want to do it on a different basis to make sure everybody is treated the same.
“The way we are now, Nottinghamshire this year are going to lose over £1m because they have not had a Test match, and that is not fair.
“The same can be said for Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Headingley when they have not had an international match.
“We might end up in a situation where, if a ground does not get a Test match, we pay them a certain amount of money so they do not make a big loss.
“If we do go down to six Tests a year (a planned reduction from seven), then we will ask them (the international grounds) how we make it fit and, if you do not get a Test, you will have some form of compensation.”
Despite the ECB’s plans, it remains incumbent on clubs to keep their grounds up to international standard, something of which Arthur is all-too aware.
The Yorkshire chief has led some outstanding work of late to widen the club’s appeal in the local community and to improve international ticket sales, but Yorkshire’s hands remain tied at present due to delays over a proposed new shared main stand with neighbours Leeds Rhinos, so vital to retaining international cricket.
The delays relate to complex planning matters that need to be resolved before work can start on a scheme scheduled for completion in 2019.