Warwickshire’s chief executive, Colin Povey, has sought to justify the club’s policy over Ashes tickets after a series of complaints by the club’s members.
To some extent, dissatisfaction for the Edgbaston management is understandable. The faulty scoreboard; the broken car-park gates; the forum with a broken microphone; the club literature stating ‘Experience Excellence’ with ‘excellence’ spelt incorrectly; the record financial losses of 2007; the cricket committee chairman who insisted that double relegation amounted to “demonstrable progress”; the failure to spot the talent of Graeme Hick, Kevin Pietersen or Kabir Ali. It doesn’t paint an impressive picture, does it?
Then there is insult to add to the injury: the members’ restaurant that shuts in the interval between innings; the members’ bar that closes when people are waiting to be served; the multi-hour queue to purchase tickets; the Cricket Board officials who only publish results when their sides win; the ban on members taking alcohol to certain games on the insulting presumption that it will cause them to react violently. It suggests a lack of respect for those who actually own this club.
And yet, beneath the veneer of incompetence, there is improvement. The club is still on course to complete the much-needed redevelopment. An exciting new coaching partnership has just taken control and record sponsorship deals have been secured despite awful economic conditions. Apart from the excellent facilities for players and spectators (compare them to other grounds if you don’t believe me), who could deny that Edgbaston has an outstanding record of staging big games?
More improvements are necessary, for sure, but the current regime took over with the infrastructure of the club stretched to breaking point. Many of the problems seen now, trivial or grand, are the fruits of seeds planted years ago and, like British Rail, memories of Dennis Amiss’ time as chief executive appear to sweeten over the years. My own view, and it is not popular, is that Warwickshire remain fortunate to have Povey.
The latest issue to infuriate members is the allocation of Ashes tickets. Long-serving members are upset after Warwickshire offered ‘half-year membership’ from the end of May at a cost of just £65. The ‘half year’ membership affords the right to buy four Ashes tickets per day at the members’ discounted price as well full voting rights and access to 70 per cent of Warwickshire’s games at around 40% of the cost. More than 1,000 have been sold this season already, leaving some long-time members unable to sit in the members’ area at next summer’s Test.
Povey defends the move, however, and insists it is in the best interests of the club. “We’re trying to increase our membership,” he says. “Evidence so far shows that those buying ‘half-year’ are lapsed members, people who enjoyed the Twenty20 Cup and are trading up or those that enjoyed the South Africa Test.
“Will it put people off buying full membership next year? Well, people shouldn’t assume we’ll offer ‘half-year’ again. We have a very stable, loyal membership and they do benefit from pre-season games and other events. Over five years our membership has declined by one per-cent. That compares to a drop of eight per-cent for all 18 counties and a drop of 40 per-cent at Leicestershire. We are the fourth highest in membership numbers [with around 6,000 full members]. We don’t include the ‘half-year’ numbers in our figures.
“It’s unfortunate that some feel they’ve not had value for money. But it’s like me buying a tie one week and going back next week and finding it’s in a sale.
“If they don’t want to come then fine. If they want to go and join Worcestershire instead then fine, too. They’ll pay more, but they’ll not have the ability to buy Test tickets and they’ll not have as good facilities.
“I think we’ve got the pricing spot on for the Ashes. We can’t be giving away tickets for this, the premium cricket match in several years. If we have a half empty ground we’ll have got it wrong. But we’re not going to, are we? We’ve already sold 15,000 Ashes tickets to our members in three days, but we only sold 10,000 to members in all for the South Africa Test.
“It’s very likely that they won’t even go on public sale. After the members, the next priority group is previous international ticket bookers. There might well be no tickets left after that, though I’d expect some to become available much nearer the event [Warwickshire will consider adding temporary stands, while the ECB retain 3,500 tickets per day for their business partners].”
“We’re very mindful of access issues for kids and we’ve given a very significant discount [£15 per ticket] for members. And we’re not going to be charging £75 a ticket for next year’s international tickets. I’m happy to meet, or write, to anyone who has an issue. I’ll listen and I hope they’ll listen, too.”
The club have also warned against buying tickets from auctions website such as Ebay. “According to the wording on the back of the tickets they are not transferable,” Povey said. “Therefore it is not legal to sell them on. We’ve had discussions with Ebay and asked them to withdraw the tickets from sale.”