Gloucestershire cricket betrayed by Bristol planners
THIS has been a wretched week. The rejection of development plans for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club's ground at Bristol is a savage blow.
When I became chairman of the club it had already been decided to improve the ground.
Our staging of One-Day Internationals would be in danger if certain necessary improvements were not made.
Those ODIs were needed. A look at our balance sheet showed how much revenue they brought to the club. Without that financial boost our future existence would be in doubt. We had to move forward.
There was a vision for the club. We would produce our own English-qualified cricketers, we would support the community of Bristol, and the ground would be a centre of excellence for the South West. The County Recreational Board joined us at Ashley Down and we all looked forward to joint cricketing initiatives.
So much of this has already happened. Five of our home-produced cricketers have gained international recognition in their appropriate age groups. Three young batsmen made maiden centuries last season - our academy is now delivering.
In addition, were we not the only sports club in the South West to bring top class international sport to Bristol?
The best cricketers in the world have played at Bristol in recent years - Shane Warne, the Waugh twins, Sachin Tendulkar. They have all played at Bristol thanks to GCCC's successful staging of international cricket. Our marketing department sold every seat, our groundsmen produced a fine wicket, our park and ride scheme worked, but we knew we could do so much more. Surely our host city would support us.
No chance! Like the city’s soccer clubs, its rugby club and now ice skaters, Bristol people are realising that their council is content with sporting mediocrity.
In a week in which the city fathers closed the ice-rink they have done their best to close the County Cricket Club.
Not so at Cardiff, Taunton or Southampton where the county clubs have been encouraged to develop and move forward. Have a look Bristol planners - and if you look hard enough, I doubt if you will sleep at nights.
What now? The County Board meets this week and nothing will be off the agenda.
Firstly they have to set a budget for this year. It is inevitable there will be huge cuts. The aim will be damage limitation.
Will an appeal be made? Will the club move? Should we give up international cricket and just bump along the bottom?
Already the City of Gloucester have said come to us. I would love that to happen. The old Wagon Works ground in Tuffley Avenue is still an 18-acre empty site. Those who remember the county playing there should also remember it only ever staged three first class matches a season. The old square is too small and must be enlarged. Facilities for players, spectators and media must be added. Moving there would be a lengthy and expensive process. Would the sale of the Bristol ground pay for the necessary changes?
I know of the Gloucester goodwill that exists. MP Richard Graham and Council Leader Paul James are both very much on side, but is there the cash?
There is money in the county. There are cricket lovers. Could we see, in ten years’ time, bowling from the Dyson (vacuum cleaner) End or perhaps the JCB one; players emerging from the Cullimore Pavilion, through the Hurley Gate?
The County Cricket Club means so much to so many. My dad was dying in Gloucester Hospital. He looked back on his life.
"Playing and watching cricket in Gloucestershire meant hopes and dreams,” he said. “I walked with Gods (Wally Hammond, Charlie Parker, Tom Goddard). I have had an unbeatable life." That is why it matters.
My Gods were different (Tom Graveney and Jack Russell) but I shared my dad's hopes. His dreams were mine.
Yes, I am emotional, but if you are to live life to the full, enjoying all it has to offer, then emotion is an inevitable by-product.
Gloucestershire County Cricket Club is very much a part of me, as it is for many others. It has been betrayed. It hurts.