As many of you will know the world of events is highly competitive, with companies and venues increasingly having to look for new areas to drive down costs and increase their offering. For instance Lord’s has it’s ‘Twelfthman’ offer, in which the every 12th place is free, presenting a wonderful opportunity to companies wishing to hold a corporate event at the ‘Home of Cricket’. It struck me this past week however just how hard it can be, especially for sporting grounds and venues that must constantly invest in order to remain competitive.
Last week an article in the Times reported on Cheltenham’s redevelopment plans to modernise the ‘spiritual home of jump racing’ in the face of funding cuts. Cheltenham’s long serving managing director Edward Gillespie outlined his vision as wanting to “change the racing experience in a way that will hold good for 40 to 50 years”. As part of their ambitious plans Cheltenham racecourse will see a new hotel built, allowing race goers to stay right in the heart of the action, especially over the longer meetings. The new developments also look set to replace the old grandstands at the lower end of the venue and the weighing room area will also be rebuilt.
Similarly BBC Sport reported this week the worries voiced by Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes on bidding for Test cricket. Lancashire, like Cheltenham, have realised the need to invest and in 2009 spent a whopping £32 million on improvements to their home ground – Old Trafford. This significant investment has been rewarded as Old Trafford are one of seven grounds that have been awarded an Ashes Test match in 2013 or 2015, however Cumbes warns that there is a danger clubs could go bust trying to develop in order to stage a Test match. Cumbes told BBC Sport: “There are nine current Test match grounds, but only seven Test matches a summer”. This has obviously led many to suggest there are too many Test grounds in England, with new grounds such as Chester-le-Street, Cardiff and The Rose Bowl now able to stage a Test match alongside the long standing traditional grounds such as Lord’s, The Oval and Edgbaston.
But as Cumbes says: “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube”. There can be no doubt however that by creating a competitive process the ECB has helped create better grounds in England. Edgbaston recently won high praise from the ECB, with a report stating that their new spacious and cutting edge Pavilion Stand had facilities ‘marginally better than Lord’s’. As far as praise goes it doesn’t get much higher than that! Overall the future looks tough but bright all at once for sporting grounds in England. This year’s Cheltenham Festival was a huge success with record numbers in attendance, whilst England international cricket witnessed one of it’s best years in awhile, with hospitality in some fixtures sold out months in advance.