Musings From The Padded Cell

The English Cricket Board’s Big Dumb Idea

Bradford Park Avenue

Bradford Park Avenue

The ECB are in a spin; numbers of participants at grassroots level are in serious decline.

Those of us that work hard to keep the game alive did not need an expensive survey to tell us this, indeed, it is fair to say most mainstream participation sports have similar issues. Most also have woefully out of touch governing bodies.

A central plank of the ECB solution is to chuck a load of money around – in the process ticking a few boxes – and hope that some of it sticks before they get rumbled for pissing money down the drain.

So it is that we have a plan to redevelop the once magnificent Bradford Park Avenue. Bradford Council are also unusually keen to get in on this; could it be that it’s not their cash and can be developed for the local community thereby making the Council appear munificent?

Of course we have been here before lest you have short memories and where are Manningham Mills CC now?

Ten years on, there are no immediate promises of council cash so it’s all free vote winning stuff for those in City Hall who probably do not know one end of a cricket bat from the other. Cue photo call!

Yorkshire (YCCC) are also playing a cute game as they too have their own financial woes and last played at Park Avenue in 1996, since then Headingley has been their home. Cricket is broke compared to football but even Manchester United only have one ground!

Schemes like this are not something YCCC can bankroll.

Mark Arthur, CEO, Yorkshire CCC

Mark Arthur, CEO, Yorkshire CCC

Mark Arthur, Yorkshire’s CEO said: “This is about giving the Bradford community more cricket facilities, both practice and playing, in the immediate and long-term, at a time when there is a shortage of cricket-playing facilities for them to enjoy.”

{Sorry Mark but have we not just lost two Bradford League clubs in the last year in the area due largely to lack of players and, crucially, volunteers?}

“However, as we develop those facilities over a period of time, and as they continue to grow and improve, there’s no reason to believe that major matches cannot be played at Bradford.”

“In 2019…we’re going to have an Ashes Test at Headingley…so there could be an opportunity to take a first-class Yorkshire County Cricket Club match back to Bradford Park Avenue.”


This last bit of news will doubtless be welcomed by the remaining half-dozen or so octogenarians who regularly watch first-class cricket…presuming they can hang on another few years.

The council believes there is a shortage of 18 cricket grounds in Bradford and claim this will rise to 25 in seven years due to population growth. This is totally disingenuous with falling numbers willing to commit not only to playing but, more importantly, running clubs.

Cricket is much more than than eleven jolly chaps with bags over shoulders rolling up just before stumps are pitched then disappearing as fast as the sun falls.

So the hapless ECB have given the council a five-figure sum to undertake a feasibility study into how this shortfall can be addressed. Cue another report and wasted consultancy fees.

Given a junior cricket ball costs around six pounds imagine the good that money could have done?

Dan Musson

Dan Musson

Dan Musson, the ECB’s facilities manager, said: “We want new spaces to play cricket in Bradford and an iconic facility in Park Avenue that can connect the local community right through to elite. At present, we can’t put an exact figure on the costs but it will be seven figures.”

That all then? Given that seven figures could be anywhere from £1m to just shy off £10m one hopes Mr Musson is not writing the cheques. Equally, who will pick up the running costs for the ground in years to come? Grant bodies don’t cost things like this in Cuckoo Land.

This scheme insults all those that currently work countless hours to keep local clubs alive. That they will splurge such an amount on such a narrow catchment area is arrogant, ignorant and a waste of public money.

Think too of the impact on those clubs most locally who have been working hard to keep cricket alive. With the lure of a shiny new facility where will local kids migrate to and what of those clubs left to pick up the pieces?

Led by a clueless ECB, nodded on by YCCC (as they have to in an increasingly political world) and jumped on by a shameless council bereft of any sporting strategy for decades, this plan is so badly thought out it defies belief.

YCCC have worked hard to improve integration in the local cricket leagues in recent years but the brutal reality is that certain leagues remain almost wholly Asian despite the clear abilities of many fine cricketers. Those that do cross the divide are often enticed purely by “talent money”.

These schemes do nothing to “connect” communities as Mr Musson so naively implies, rather they widen divisions by creating a “them and us” mindset; they also create a dependency culture.

The Spirit of Cricket – a theme the ECB love to trumpet – was born out of committed volunteers with a passion for all this beautiful game offers. It was not derived on patronising, race-based handouts that marginalise the vast majority.

Put it another way – read this slowly – this scheme is blatant discrimination that would not be allowed in reverse and will solve nothing for the good of cricket nor local communities.

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  1. David Markham says:

    I find myself in a difficult position. I both agree and disagree with your T&A piece in today’s paper and the longer version on your website. Like all cricket lovers in Bradford I was dismayed at the demise of Park Avenue. I was a member of the save Park Avenue Committee under the chairmanship of Bradford League president Bruce Moss after Bradford CC pulled out and this led to the formation of the Yorkshire Academy and the return of Yorkshire to Bradford albeit for only four years. I am not clear from reading the T&A exactly what Yorkshire and the ECB have in mind but the potential uses for Park Avenue are considerable and it is too good a facility to lay waste. I share your concern at the decline of inner city cricket in Bradford. I know all the reasons for the demise of Manningham Mills and Great Horton but the fact that is that those two inner city clubs are no more and who knows how many youngsters are not able to play cricket because these clubs no longer exist. You are right about lack of voluntary workers. That was a reason for the demise of Great Horton. Money, of course, is an issue as well. The ECB help focus clubs. We at Bradford & Bingley had a generous grant and loan five years ago to provide us with outdoor nets, but, I am sure you are right, the money planned for Park Avenue could have been put to good use at local clubs. Let’s see what develops at Park Avenue. I also agree with you about Bradford Council. They have little idea about how to develop sport and the cricket clubs who are forced to play on local authority pitches get a raw deal, I suspect. There is so much more I could more I could say but I must go.
    David Markham

    • I do not claim to have all the answers but have been around long enough to have a sense of the issues we face as the game dwindles. Thank you for replying though.

  2. David J Douglas says:

    I used to live at Park Avenue CC and I also played at Great Horton for many years. In my opinion the reason for the decline of Park Ave was that it was in the wrong catchment area. There was no money in the area to form an actual club. The place was like ghost town for most of the week. the same will apply if the people try to redevelope the ground.The same applies to Great Horton and Manningham Mills. Lets face it the present population of all three areas will not work as we did to keep these places funtional.

    • Thank you for the reply as a man who clearly knows that cricket clubs need much more to exist than a bunch of guys rolling up each Saturday ten minutes before the start. The Douglas name is synonymous with local cricket and I am making a guess that you may have been related to Alan?
      This scheme is particularly galling when you see how many youth clubs etc are facing hikes in rents now and yet the Council and ECB are lavishing cash on a white elephant. Thanks again.

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