When England played Australia at Old Trafford last summer, there were unprecedented scenes outside the ground. Twenty thousand cricket fans were locked out on the final day of the Third Test - even though the match was heading for a draw. Such is the passion for cricket in the Manchester area.
|Locked out: fans were turned away|
So imagine the reaction when The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced yesterday that it was dropping Old Trafford as a Test venue for the 2009 Ashes tour. And to add insult to injury, that honour was being awarded to Cardiff's Sophia Gardens which has never staged a Test match of any kind.
Lancashire County Cricket Club (LCCC) immediately issued a statement expressing their 'dismay' at the decision.
What they said:
'A kick in the teeth' - LCCC chief exec Jim Cumbes
"It's clear the decision has been a commercial one. It's not that we were a few thousand quid short - apparently we were a long, long way short. The Board told us we ticked all the right boxes except the one that returned monies to the Board... We were likening it last night to football and Roman Abramovich and you can't compete financially - not if you have got a tourist board and the Welsh Assembly backing it. We stretched ourselves to the limit.. but Cardiff were into figures we could not possibly match. To say we are disappointed is an understatement: it's a massive kick in the teeth for the North West, which is a hotbed of cricket. It's not the first time we have missed out on an Ashes Test - we bounced back after 2001 and we can do it again."
'Devastated' - LCCC Vice President Farokh Engineer:
“I’m absolutely devastated. It’s a sucker punch, below the belt if I may say so because Old Trafford is a great, great venue – one of the finest grounds in the world – and some of the finest Test matches have been played there especially between England and Australia with Jim Laker’s performance and all that. How could they ever even think of taking away a Test match from Old Trafford? And to lose it to a ground where they haven’t even played a Test match? I may sound a bit biased but I am angry and upset for the members of Lancashire because the sporting people of Manchester and Lancashire really love their cricket. Obviously, the ground has to be made bigger because there’s nothing worse than 20,000 people being locked out. “
'Very sad' - LCCC chairman, Jack Simmons
"It’s very sad for the simple reason of the success we had against Australia this year. But in my view, we have supplied a magnificent Test wicket over five days for the last four years which have benefited England superbly well and to the progression that England have made. And that makes it even more sad."
'Nothing to do with the bid' - LCCC Marketing manager Geoff Durban
"It doesn't affect [Lancashire's plans to move to a new ground] at all. That process is working through at long last rather quickly. Wigan have got until summertime to finalise their bid and they'll obviously make proposals to us. But no, it doesn't make significant difference to that. That's a separate issue and was nothing to do with the bid or the Cardiff situation."
'Well supported' - David Collier, ECB:
“I think what has happened with Cardiff is that they have tremendous development plans which have been exceptionally well supported by the Welsh Assembly and by Cardiff City Council. There are eight venues which can stage Test match cricket and Old Trafford has been awarded Test matches against the West Indies in 2007 and New Zealand in 2008. Certainly Old Trafford has a wonderful record and obviously is a great historic ground. I don’t think they got anything wrong. We had four very very strong submissions. I think it’s fair to say that the financial submission and the support from a local regional agency helped the Cardiff bid. And I think that in terms of modern facilities helped the Cardiff bid."