The eyes of the cricket world may currently be on the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff which is hosting the opening Test match of the 2009 Ashes, however it is Lord’s and Edgbaston which rank highest amongst cricket players.
Following the recent Drivers Jonas’ cricket fans survey which asked more than 3,000 fans their views on the cricket grounds in the UK, the company has just surveyed 45 top-flight cricketers – about ten per cent of all cricketers in the Championship – asking them which of the Ashes grounds they prefer and which are unsuitable for the gladiatorial England-Australia clash
The cricket grounds were ranked from one to five. Top of the survey from both fans and players was Lord’s, the home of cricket, with Warwickshire’s Edgbaston claiming second place.
1. Lord’s – 89.4 per cent
Warwickshire’s Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham came second, and is developing with plans for a £32m redevelopment submitted at the end of last year. A 90,000 sq ft hotel, 150,000 sq ft of offices, 254 homes, 49,000 sq ft of restaurants and bars, 12,000 sq ft of shops and 25,000 sq ft of crèche and leisure facilities are all a part of the plans.
Twelve cricketers picked the ground as its favourite of the five. The ground was also considered to have the second best batting pitch of the five venues, suggesting that the third Test of the series might end in a draw. Nineteen cricketers said that Edgbaston was the best for piling on the runs but overall the Oval was considered the favourite for the flat track bullies with all of the remaining 26 cricketers voting for the south London venue.
The home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club scraped into third place by 0.46. Only one of the 45 cricketers polled said it was his Ashes ground of choice. Five said it was second favourite, 20 said it was third favourite, 18 said it was fourth and one said it was least favourite. Headingley is also embarking on redevelopment of part of the site. In March it was granted planning consent for the £21m, 45,000 sq ft Carnegie Pavilion. The pavilion, being built by Bam Construction, is expected to be completed in May 2010.
Surprisingly, the Brit Oval came fourth, with some room for improvement, so it is just as well that the Kennington ground was granted planning consent by the Secretary of State earlier this month for a £35m redevelopment which will increase capacity to 25,000 and will include a four-star 168-bed hotel. Surrey County Cricket Club and Arora International Hotels are developing the plans. In the survey, only one cricketer said the Oval was his favourite ground to host an Ashes Test match. Eleven put it as second choice, eleven at third, 17 at fourth and five in fifth.
Hosting one of the Ashes Tests in Cardiff has not gone down well with the cricketing fraternity. Six of the polled cricketers put it as their fourth-choice ground, with a whopping 39 putting it in last place. Drivers Jonas also asked the cricketers what they thought about Sophia Gardens hosting the first match of the Ashes series – 25 of those polled disagreed with the decision, with 17 saying they weren’t bothered and only two agreeing with the decision.
The results echo the fans’ survey released in November 2008, which covered much more detail about the actual facilities at all county grounds. Midlands cricket grounds faired well in the largest-ever survey of fans in the UK, with Edgbaston named as one of the top choices to host the forthcoming 2009 Ashes series and Nottinghamshire’s Trent Bridge named second – only behind Lord’s – as the nation’s best Test match cricket ground and a favourite venue for spectator facilities.
According to the survey, by property consultants Drivers Jonas Sport, fans say there is plenty of room for grounds across the country to improve their catering, transport, toilet facilities and club shops.
Improvements that supporters would like to see at grounds varied from venue to venue but some themes appeared regularly, such as the installation of permanent floodlights, better parking, non-junk food options and better ground facilities in general. But most fans are happy with the comfort of their seats and the view of the pitch.
The survey found that Edgbaston is already leading the field in some of these areas, with an existing strong retail offering – the ground was rated joint highest for best ranges of goods in the club shop.
Other Midlands grounds were also praised: Worcestershire achieved the highest score for all-round uninterrupted views of the ground but, perhaps unsurprisingly, fans wished for less rain and better flood defences.
Geoff Aucock, partner at Drivers Jonas and head of the company’s sports division, said: “However good the ground is, it’s the fans that really make the difference and make the experience of going there rather extraordinary.
The view of the pitch, the quality of seating, ease of access and the standard of the facilities provided are also vital. It’s about getting the mix right as well as providing top-quality cricket that grounds have to consider when developing and managing their facilities and this survey shows fans are passionate about their experience.”
Gary Cardin, head of the Birmingham Drivers Jonas office, added: “Despite being named as one of the top choices of professional cricketers, Edgbaston is under increasing pressure to hold on to its Test match venue status with other clubs in the UK massively investing in their grounds.
“As such, it’s pleasing to see Edgbaston’s forward-thinking attitude with the planned £32million redevelopment to ensure it retains its status as one of the UK’s premier grounds. In order to ensure success with players and fans alike, the new ground will need to exceed expectations by improving its all-round offering and enhancing its mix of retail, hospitality and sporting facilities.”
When asked where the forthcoming Ashes series should be held, fans stated Lord’s, Edgbaston, Old Trafford, Brit Oval, and Headingley Carnegie, with the Rose Bowl in sixth place. Interesting to note that Glamorgan’s Sophia Gardens and Trent Bridge never made the top six. On this controversial subject of the allocation of Test match grounds, only one per cent thought that grounds should be allocated on the basis of highest bids.
Away from the Test match arena, Hampshire’s Rose Bowl led the way followed by New Road, Worcester.
A comfortable seat and a decent view are vital for an enjoyable day watching cricket and almost 60 per cent of respondents believe the seats at their ground are either very comfortable or comfortable enough, while fewer than three per cent gave their seats the thumbs down. Durham was voted the most comfortable ground, with Essex and Somerset fairing the worst. More than 90 per cent are happy with their view and nearly 75 per cent can see 360 degrees with three quarters considering their leg room generally acceptable.
The best-rated cricket food is served up by Hampshire, Worcestershire and Middlesex. However, Lord’s offering is also rated the most expensive, along with Warwickshire and Surrey – but a trade-off for more expensive nature of the food is quality as all three were rated highly.
Transport was a key issue with a surprising 49 per cent travelling to the ground by car while the next most popular form of transport is train (30 per cent). Derbyshire saw the highest percentage of car-users at 88 per cent and fans getting to their grounds under their own steam (walking or cycling) were Notts, Worcestershire and Glamorgan. Unsurprisingly, the two London grounds – Lord’s and Brit Oval – came out on top for public transport use. Ease of access to grounds was considered to be poor, and most had room for improvement.
County fans were asked to comment on all aspect of their ground, here are some of our favourite replies:
Derbyshire – best marks for comfort but fans requested a better team;
Durham – scored highest for leg room but they would like to see better opposition (despite the fact they have won the county championship!) and they’d like fewer Sunderland supporters;
Glamorgan – more shelter for rainy days, easier access to leave the ground in rain or poor team performance;
Gloucestershire – upgrade of scoreboard, better books in the club shop;
Hampshire – transport is bugbear for Hampshire with fans requesting better road access, tarmac car park, park and ride and a railway station;
Essex – a healthy crowd who requested healthier food, but not enough outlets selling beer! Several requests for a better pavilion and more entrances to ground;
Kent – better scoreboard, a restaurant overlooking pitch, more international games, a big television screen and most important… more npower girls;
Lancashire (Old Trafford) – a child-sensitive crowd asked for an area where children can play cricket in the break and more child facilities are available yet they also follow the Kent model above as they want more npower girls too. New balcony was a popular observation;
Leicestershire – modern facilities, covered seating, cheaper tickets, secure bike park and they are obviously beer connoisseurs as requests for real ale options and people to BYO good beer;
Middlesex (Lord’s) – as the home of cricket, respondents detailed as ‘perfect as it is’ but more undercover seating, toilets cleaned during match day. Also a hotel, less music, less barmy army and more tickets at lower cost;
Northamptonshire – voted second for spectator facilities as well as second for best international cricket ground. But fans want a proper members’ pavilion, covered seating and bigger capacity. Fans cited their ground worst in the survey for views;
Nottinghamshire (Trent Bridge) – voted top for its toilet facilities but fans want more big screens, a better tannoy system, real ales – yet fewer drunks and less bouncer-style security;
Surrey (Brit Oval) – joint worst score with Lord’s for leg room, expensive food and unhappy with the ‘no drinks through turnstiles’ policy. Too many corporate freeloaders and fans requested less hassle from stewards stating “we are not hooligans!”. Positively, fans asked for a picnic area and covered seating;
Somerset – don’t like being kept in dark with requests for permanent floodlights, upgraded toilets, a PA system and a general lick of paint;
Warwickshire (Edgbaston) – improved transport networks on big match days, more covered seating and a new pavilion. Rated joint highest for best ranges of goods in club shop;
Worcestershire – highest score for all-round uninterrupted views of the ground but, unsurprisingly, fans wished for less rain and better flood defences. Healthier food and more beer and more covered seating over D’Oliveira Stand;
Yorkshire (Headingly Carnegie) – better sound system and large televisions, better transport on match days. Crowd requesting smoking and wider bars!