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Yorkshire submit plans to bring Ashes cricket back to Headingley

Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur is hopeful of keeping Test match cricket at Headingley, including an Ashes match with Steve Smith's Australia.
Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur is hopeful of keeping Test match cricket at Headingley, including an Ashes match with Steve Smith's Australia.
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YORKSHIRE have submitted their bid to the England and Wales Cricket Board for international games between 2020-2024 and for the new city-based T20 franchise tournament.

Counties have until this Monday to bid for England fixtures during those years and to become a hosting venue for the T20 competition.

Yorkshire have asked for four Tests during this five-season period (the most available to non-London venues), including an Ashes Test in 2023.

They have also bid for either a one-day international or a T20 international to go with each Test and, in the one year in which they would not host a Test, for a one-day international plus a T20 international.

Along with their Test ground rivals, Yorkshire will make a 25-minute presentation to the ECB’s Host Venue Panel during the third week of January in support of their bid.

The Host Venue Panel will make their recommendations to the ECB’s top brass, who will announce the international/T20 franchise allocation in mid-February.

Yorkshire’s Emerald Headingley headquarters is one of eight centres bidding for six Tests each summer along with Lord’s, The Oval, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston, Old Trafford, the Ageas Bowl and SWALEC Stadium.

Competition is fierce, particularly with Lord’s traditionally staging two Tests each year, but Yorkshire are confident that they are on course to become one of the top-four international grounds in the country once their new Main Stand is finished by 2019.

Mark Arthur, the Yorkshire chief executive, said: “We’ve gone for packages that will basically cement our position in the top-four international grounds in the country, which is our stated aim.

“We’re looking for four Test matches in that five-year period – the option to have five Tests in five years is not available – including the Ashes in 2023.

“Each year, there’s six Tests, six one-day internationals and six T20 internationals available.

“The bid is in two parts – for the years 2020-2022, and then for the years 2023-2024 – and we’re confident that we satisfy the criteria required to stage major matches.”

Counties are marked on a variety of criteria to host international games.

This includes the ability to attract full houses, particularly for challenging sells against lesser opposition, and Yorkshire emphasised in their bid how they turned aggregate sales of 29,000 for the New Zealand Test in 2013 to 56,000 for this year’s Test against West Indies, going through the various ticketing/marketing strategies employed.

The club also showed how they have improved their matchday experience over the last two years at high-profile fixtures, with Emerald Headingley having taken significant strides in this regard.

This year, the ground scored 8.8 out of 10 in an independent customer survey by the ECB, the highest score of any venue in the country, meaning that cricket lovers effectively felt that the overall experience at the Headingley Test was the best they enjoyed anywhere last season.

Key criteria for the Host Venue Panel also includes venue safety; security and operations; the ability to attract new audiences and thereby help grow the game; collaborations and partnerships with local stakeholders and local communities; pitches and cricket facilities, and the ability to optimise revenue.

“We’ve basically had to show a number of things, such as how we’ve attracted new audiences,” added Arthur.

“There’s lots of data involved, and various factors that we’ve had to outline to the ECB.

“Other factors that could help are our work in the south-Asian community, the history and tradition of Yorkshire and Emerald Headingley, our commitment to women and girls cricket, the work that goes on in the volunteering sector, and so on.

“We feel that we’ve put together a very good bid.”

Arthur, the former Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and Nottingham Forest Football Club chief executive, never takes credit for himself when it comes to the strides that Yorkshire have taken in recent years.

Without wishing for one moment to criticise previous administrations, who worked tirelessly under challenging conditions, there is no doubt, however, that a man who would rather be seen in a crumpled suit than highlight his own contribution has helped to lift the club to a new level – one where aspirations for Leeds to become one of the top-four international grounds in the country are eminently realistic as opposed to the administrative equivalent of white noise.

With his business acumen and personable manner, not to mention a valuable sense of perspective as someone who came into Yorkshire cricket in 2013 from the outside, so to speak, Arthur has helped lead the club forward and position Emerald Headingley at the centre of the sweeping changes taking place in the sport.

Yorkshire is now much more of a fully-functional, friendly organisation than it was in years of yore and is busy making friends and influencing people.

As the Host Venue Panel deliberate such qualities in the coming weeks, and as counties battle for their slice of the international cake, the cherry on the top from Yorkshire’s point of view would undoubtedly be the award of the most high-profile fixture of all those available – an Ashes Test in 2023.

Having proven their ability to sell lesser fixtures such as against West Indies this year, when groundsman Andy Fogarty’s pitch helped to produce one of the most enthralling games of recent times, how Yorkshire would dearly love a match against the box office draw card of Australia.

Were they not to get an Ashes Test, in fact, it would mean that by the time the subsequent home series came round in 2027, there would have only been one Headingley Ashes Test since 2009.

Eighteen years would be a long time for the biggest cricketing county in England to stage only one Ashes fixture – further food for thought, one imagines, for the powers-that-be.