Pic: Alison Sutherland
Members enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion at last night’s Meet the Players event with Club Chairman Sir Ian Botham. Players and Officials responded to a number of questions posted in advance and raised on the evening by a packed Riverside Suite.
Hosted by BBC Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson, Sir Ian set out his vision for an inclusive County Cricket Club representing the North East of England. Sir Ian explained that continuing to stage games north of the Tyne strengthens our link with Northumberland and the Northumberland Cricket Board, who are a continuing source of talent for the Club.
Although the facilities may not always match Emirates Riverside, occasional use of outgrounds demonstrates our commitment to the wider region. The fixture at South Northumberland CC attracts significant corporate support returning a small surplus to the Club and therefore worth persisting with where the fixtures allow.
Chief Executive David Harker outlined the events of the last 12 months and explained how the underlying historic financial challenges that had come to a head in the summer. The punitive sanctions imposed by the ECB were a condition of ECB’s financial support and a successful challenge of those sanctions could have led to the removal of that support exposing the Club and its creditors to financial risk. Durham has maintained a professional working relationship with the ECB for the benefit of the long term interests of the Club and cricket in the North East.
In response to a question from the floor it was confirmed that funds raised in support of the Nursery Ground were held in a separate account pending the next phase of work. This is likely to be the establishment of grass nets and a junior pitch, subject to final costs, starting on site at the end of the summer. The artificial nets have already been installed.
On the theme of continuing investment, the Club will have the funds to make appropriate investment in facilities. Having invested in the Riverside Suite last year, this year the Club is looking to make Austin’s more family friendly. The Club has also invested in lifts, boilers, grounds equipment and Wi-Fi technology and set aside funds to create a memorial garden.
Martin asked about the current position with regard to putting together a new Board of Directors. It was explained that in consultation with independent consultants a short list of candidates had been drafted and Sir Ian was meeting preferred candidates.
There are currently four directors and that should increase to six or seven over the next few weeks. The Directors would be unpaid other than for the reimbursement of expenses. Sir Ian took the opportunity to introduce to members one of the early appointments, Phil Collins. Phil touched on his extensive, successful commercial background and his lifetime love of cricket. Phil further explained that he had taken a bit of time to examine the underlying business and was encouraged that costs were well controlled and revenues increasing.
After the interval Martin was joined on stage for a lively discussion with Mark Wood, Keaton Jennings, Stephen Cook and Jon Lewis.
All four spoke at length about the season ahead and the ambitions of the side to compete in all three competitions this year. Wood talked about his rehabilitation from a third ankle operation, Jennings about continuing his incredible form of the last 12 months and Cook of adapting to English conditions in the week since arriving.
This was followed by discussion with Neil Killeen who commented on the strength of the Club’s development programme and coaching structure. Neil also expressed his frustration that more Clubs around the County were not prepared to host second eleven cricket and invited interested parties to contact the Club.
There was also a good deal of discussion around the proposed new T20 Competition and what this might mean for cricket and Durham in particular. Although much of the detail has yet to be finalised, the Chairman envisaged a regional competition in which Emirates Riverside would feature as a venue.
Having witnessed the Big Bash at first hand, Sir Ian felt that the new competition represented an exciting opportunity to re-ignite the interest of young people.
The evening concluded with a vote of thanks from Sir Ian and a rallying cry to look forward to the Club’s continued success.