First-class cricket could make a return to Croydon next summer, Inside Croydon can reveal.
As the fifth and final Ashes Test between England and Australia gets underway at The Oval, today, Inside Croydon has learned of moves behind the scenes to see the county side up sticks from their county ground and return to South Croydon for the first time in three years for a handful of fixtures in 2014.
According to a senior source based in Kennington, there have been several recent meetings between Richard Gould, the chief executive at Surrey County Cricket Club, and Dr Christopher Barnett, the headmaster of Whitgift.
“We hope to be back in Croydon again in 2014,” the Oval source told Inside Croydon, promising fixture details once the 2014 schedule is announced by the England and Wales Cricket Board in the autumn.
Surrey’s Croydon cricket festival, first staged at Whitgift School in 2000, was hugely popular with Surrey CCC members and the local public, who provided a packed ground for the week of County Championship and televised one-day games in the picturesque setting. The spin-offs for local businesses were considerable, too, with the pubs and restaurants enjoying the extra trade before spectators headed home.
“The Oval is a Test ground, and offers all the facilities you’d expect,” one Surrey member told Inside Croydon. “But even on the best of days, you struggle to attract 5,000-strong crowds to county games at The Oval and generate any sort of atmosphere like we get at Whitgift. The members enjoyed it, and the players seemed to, too.”
In the county club’s 160-year history, it has only played more often at two grounds: Guildford and The Oval itself.
But Surrey have not returned to Croydon since 2011, ostensibly because of issues over fixture dates and building works going on within the private school, although at Surrey members’ forums, Oval regulars were told of issues with sub-standard facilities “on and off the field” for the players and staff.
It was also suggested that there may have been some disagreement between the school and the cricket club over financing for the week’s sport – despite Whitgift having spent £500,000 on the cricket square and grounds since 2011.
If the county side does return in 2014, that will look like money well-spent, and under new captain Graeme Smith and with England players such as Kevin Pietersen and Chris Tremlett in the side, it could provide a fitting stage for some of the school’s former pupils, including Jason Roy, now an established figure in the county side’s batting order, and spinner Freddie van den Burgh, who is finishing his studies at Durham.
Local businesses and community groups welcome the return of the cricket festival, with Timothy Godfrey, the spokesman on culture and sport for the Labour group on Croydon Council, saying, ““We’re delighted that this much-loved sports fixture will be returning to Croydon next year. It’s excellent news for Whitgift School, for Surrey members and for local cricket clubs.
“We are keen to help get more people, especially children, inspired by this top-level cricket, and we will work together with Surrey CCC and local schools and cricket clubs to provide discounted, or even free, tickets, and we will hope that businesses in North End will help to stage special events to promote the cricket festival.”
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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