News by Alex Wolstenholme 22/11/03
Old Trafford has been a cricket ground since 1857 and the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club since their foundation in 1864. Given this history, any possible planned move away by the club to a new stadium in Manchester, will provoke strong feelings among some members. In truth though, Old Trafford really has been left behind by other Test Match venues in England over recent years and the chance to move to a new purpose built ground should not be passed up by the Lancashire members.
If you were starting from scratch with the brief to build a venue fit for first-class cricket, the final design would look nothing like the current Old Trafford ground. Of course, that isnít Lancashireís fault entirely, cash flow has determined that improvements were made gradually, but the ground is a mish -mash of different stands that visually do not complement each other.
The decision to build the relatively new two-tier stand was a mistake, the stand is only ever full during international matches and looks out of place when compared to the stands either side of it.
Old Trafford can still generate a good crowd atmosphere when full, but even that is dependent mainly on the weather because large parts of the ground are open to the elements. On an overcast day it is a fairly depressing place to be given its current positioning.
Of course, a number of Counties have been required to put in place, gradual improvements to their grounds in recent years. But, unlike the football trust, where money generated from the pools competition was given to clubs to build new stands or improve existing facilities, nothing similar exists to aid Counties to make improvements in order to modernise or update their grounds.
Current transport links to Old Trafford are very good, but similar provisions will exist at the proposed new 30,000 seat stadium in Manchester, where Lancashire look set to call home, with an extension of the Metrolink system already in place.
In recent years, Lancashire have sought to improve their income with a number of pop concerts on the Old Trafford site. These have been big successes, with the knock-on effect of more County games being played at outgrounds such as Blackpool and Southport. This has given more members the chance to see the side without having to travel and the crowds for these games have filled the smaller grounds, creating a much better atmosphere to play in, than a yawing, empty Old Trafford.
With a clean slate on which to plan and build a new ground, there is scope for Lancashire to have a home that is capable both of creating an atmosphere for a run of the mill County game, as well as coping with the crowds that attend Test and ODI matches.
The prospect of a new, state of the art arena, is also one that may attract more new spectators to watch matches. Better facilities and better protection from the elements, are vital in getting support from outside the current die-hard membership base.
The north of England needs and deserves, three top-quality Test Match venues to cope with the regional interest in cricket and the increased amount of International matches England now play. With a new ground at Chester-Le-Street and improvements at Headingley on the way, a new home for Lancashire would give them that complement.
Any reservations held by the Lancashire members should be cast aside in favour of a move to Manchester and the benefits such move will bring to the club and sport in general.