Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Light to stand down

John Light is to stand down as chairman of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club after three years in charge.

Light said he wanted to "enjoy continued good health" and will not be seeking re-election at the AGM in January.

He told www.gloscricket.co.uk: "The role of a county chairman increasingly carries greater demands. The nature of the role is changing and we need someone who can help generate the finance needed to realise our excellent plans for the ground."

Light, who will turn 70 next year, underwent major heart and prostate surgery in 2007 and is standing down due to medical advice.

He has overseen a transformation of the club, particularly in the past season, with the appointment of John Bracewell and the commitment to develop young players. He feels he will be leaving the Shire in good health: "I believe firmly that we now have the structure in place to take Gloucestershire forward in the future, both on and off the field."

The outgoing chairman stated that he was a cricket person, but someone with a background in business was necessary to continue to drive the club forward alongside chief-executive, Tom Richardson. News that may concern many who feel it is precisely a cricketing person that is required in the top job in order to ground the Shire as a cricket club.

Light will continue in his role as chair of the Cotswold Cricket Association and still be involved with the Gloucestershire Cricket Board.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Light against free-to-air Cricket

Gloucestershire chairman, John Light, has spoken out against the proposed change to protected sporting events which would see home Ashes series be returned to free-to-air television.

His comments came as the England and Wales Cricket Board welcomed a call by the government to open up a period of consultation over the proposed move.

Speaking to www.gloscricket.co.uk, Light voiced his displeasure at the possibility of the funding structure provided by Sky's contract with the ECB being "sabotaged": "The money from television contracts has ensured a clear and positive pathway from the village green to the County Club."

He spoke of the "fabric" of cricket in Gloucestershire being in danger were funding to be cut, but surely Mr. Light is taking a narrow-minded perspective? Does the chairman not want to see cricket coverage opened up to the masses, so more will be tempted along to Nevil Road? And more will be motivated to get down their local clubs? Thereby strengthening cricket in the county.

This blog believes that any opposition to cricket being taken off subscription channels is merely interested in numbers and figures: they envisage a large hole in the finances that will cause havoc to future projects. Granted, county cricket would take a knock in the pocket from reduced handouts, but surely everyone wants counties to stand on their own two feet? Is not enticing more in through the gates the best way to achieve this? And is putting the show on for all to see not the best way to go about doing so?

Mr. Light cites the financial aid given to grassroots cricket in the county as the case for Sky to continue their monopoly on the game, but providing better facilities is a wasted exercise if no-one is there to use them. Mr. Light suggests it is this that gets people playing cricket: "surely participants are better than couch potatoes?" Indeed sir they are, however, not many ten-year-olds asses the quality of their club's pavilion before deciding to take up the game. Participants are stimulated through inspiration, and only by giving people this inspiration by allowing them the opportunity to witness the game at it's best, will they wish to go out and recreate it.

Granted funding will be reduced. Granted a pavilion or two may not be built. But there are other sources of funding. And perhaps more funding could be available if the counties sacrificed their handouts? Just a thought.

The negative impact that the terrestrial turn off has caused needs to be reversed. Cricket needs to be beamed into everyone's home. Our sport needs mass coverage to gain mass popularity; to gain mass participation. Funding shortage or not, Mr. Light et al. must not be blinded by the impact of finance in the short-term. They must see that the greater good of the sport will be served by a whole nation being able to watch it and a whole nation being able to revere in the wonders of cricket.

2010 Fixtures Released

The fixture list for the 2010 season has been released, and reveals some key changes to the cricketing calender.

Gloucestershire will begin their 2010 season with a County Championship match against Northamptonshire on Thursday 15th April at Nevil Road and the new ECB 40 League will be played out across the whole season with a break for the new Friends Provident Twenty20 competition, which begins on Friday 4th June.

A key change to the County Championship matches is the shift to midweek cricket: many of the games are Monday or Tuesday starts. This was the wish of many clubs who cited Saturday's as a non-cricket watching day due to the numerical strength of club cricket. Although a curious insertion of a Saturday evening fixture - T20 v Hampshire at Bristol - will be an interesting experiment.

The Saturday fixture will be part of the new Friends Provident T20 that will be played out over a much larger period - from the opening fixture at Sophia Gardens on Friday 4th June until Sunday 18th July when Surrey are the visitors to Nevil Road; respite is found in two County Championship matches that break-up the barren six-week period of the shortest format.

The fixtures show potential for the Gloucester festival to be renewed - with two Twenty20 matches highlighted as "TBC"; a return to Gloucester is subject to a sponsorship deal being arranged. This blog sincerely hopes a deal can be arranged to secure cricket back to the heart of the county.

The Shire will visit far fewer outgrounds next season: Arundel for a championship match and Uxbridge for a T20 are the only temporary away venues scheduled. This blog is most pleased that Lord's is back on the agenda, although disappointed at consecutive trips to the capital for back-to-back championship matches.

The Cheltenham festival is set for a slightly reduced format; two championship matches are flanked by two 40-over games from Thursday 29th July until Sunday 8th August. The Thursday start is very curious; one would have thought beginning on a Friday would have kickstarted the festival well, and is bound to be a more attractive day for commercial sales and supporters to take a day off work. This becomes all the more strange as Tuesday 3rd August is a blank day - the whole schedule could therefore be moved along a day to provide a Friday start.

The season will finish a week earlier than last year in order to accommodate the T20 champions league - a shame that the ECB have bowed to India's insistence once more, but allows for the final of the ECB 40 League to provide a grand finale to the season.

The fixture list appears nicely balanced; the ECB 40 League has been given an opportunity to develop across the course of the season and should provide a good competition, although this blog advocates for a quarter-final stage also. The longer format, and a Lord's final - under floodlights for the first time, is rightly back at the pinnacle of one-day cricket.

Key Fixtures
OPENING MATCH: Thursday 15 April v Northamptonshire, Bristol, LVCC
FIRST ONE-DAY MATCH: Sunday 25 April v Derbyshire, Bristol, 40L
POTENTIAL GLOUCESTER FESTIVAL: Friday 11th June & Sunday 13th June, T20
LOCAL DERBYS: Friday 18 June v Somerset, Taunton, T20
Friday 16 July v Somerset, Bristol, T20
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: Thursday 29th July - Sunday 8th August
FINAL MATCH: Monday 13th September v Surrey, Bristol, LVCC
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