England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 2nd day July 28, 2014

Bransgove in pursuit of Ashes dream


Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman, hopes that modest ticket sales for the India Test will not deter the ECB from allocating an Ashes match to the Ageas Bowl in 2019.

Hampshire are set to receive financial help from the ECB after the India game - only the second Test the ground has hosted - was scheduled to start on a Sunday, the first Test to do so in the UK.

While first day ticket sales were strong, the remaining days are far weaker, with the ECB accepting that the start day and the packed schedule have done nothing to assist sales.

But Bransgrove, who has saved the club from insolvency and overseen the development of its new home, believes the stadium deserves an Ashes Test as it bids to prove itself "the best ground outside London".

"There's no secret I think this ground warrants and deserves an Ashes Test match," Bransgrove said. "It's a burden being the only ground in this country which has never been awarded an Ashes Test. That's a monkey that I want off our back and that's what we're working towards.

"Obviously marketing this game was difficult because it's a different day. Traditionally we rely very heavily on corporate sales, which are virtually non-existent at the weekend, so we knew we had something of a handicap.

"I still remember where I was when I was told it was starting on a Sunday. It was August 25, 2013 and I was in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. We all knew it was going to be a challenge. When we bid for the game, there was an assumption that it would start on Thursday."

Bransgrove has been assured that modest ticket sales won't count against Hampshire's bids for future matches.

"In fairness we've been helped by ECB, and the help is dependent on how close we got to our original forecasts of attendance for the first three days. They're helping financially in the event that we have a significant shortfall on attendance, which is likely. They've acknowledged the difficulties of selling a game from Sunday to Wednesday."

As things stand, only one Test series - a five-Test Ashes - is scheduled for the English summer of 2019, though England will also host the World Cup. With the ECB having staging agreements with two clubs - Yorkshire and Surrey - that guarantee them Tests in 2019 and with Lord's sure to host another, it leaves half-a-dozen other venues - Southampton, Cardiff, Nottingham, Birmingham, Durham and Manchester - vying for the remaining two games. While it is just about possible that another Test - possibly against Ireland or Afghanistan - could be squeezed into a busy summer, there is no substitute - either financially or in terms of status - with hosting an Ashes match.

"Our aim has always been to make the Ageas Bowl the best ground outside London. Just as the best shows go to the best theatres in London, I think we should be competing by being the best."

Although the Ageas Bowl, which hosted its first Test in 2011 when Sri Lanka were the visitors, is scheduled to stage several limited-overs matches over the next few years, it does not currently have any further Tests allocated to it having missed out in recent allocations.

"We were unsuccessful in the last bidding process which was very disappointing," Bransgrove said. "Since then we've looked seriously at ourselves and the area we failed on which was legacy. I didn't really see that we fell short; we had provided a great legacy here building a great ground and making sure the local club survived. But we've done a lot more now with our charity, setting up the learning centre and the boxing club to make an impact on the local communities.

"Our aim has always been to make the Ageas Bowl the best ground outside London. We see this game as another opportunity to demonstrate what we can do and, just as the best shows go to the best theatres in London, I think we should be competing by being the best."

Bransgrove views the India Test as "the biggest milestone" on the journey of Hampshire from impoverished county club to major Test match venue, but admits the role of chairman has become far more all-encompassing than he could have imagined. Not only has he invested more than £8m of his own money into the club - money that he knows he will never see again - but he has spent years embroiled in political battles with the ECB and fighting for planning permission, funding assistance and myriad other challenges that could hardly have been envisaged when he took on the role in 2000. It is no surprise that he says he has "fallen out of love" with cricket administration.

"It's not been a wholly enjoyable experience," he admitted. "It has, at different times, been an obsession, a business, and a battle for me. It's been everything and, along some pretty low days, there have been some wonderful highs. I don't expect to recoup the money I've spent. Profit was never the motivation for me.

"I can't even remember the beginning now. I think there was a horse in a field in the area they are playing now - I have a picture of it somewhere - but I am proud and delighted of what we've achieved. To host an Ashes Test would be the ultimate. It would feel as if we've had been accredited and accepted."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on July 31, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    Why has England not tried to host a Ashes match at Wembley? It holds 100,000 has hosted pretty much everything you could think of , it's also in London as just imagine if England had that sort of crowd as would be similar to the MCG

  • R on July 30, 2014, 17:13 GMT

    @redneck I think you are looking at this from the wrong angle. The price for me to take my 3 x lads would be £60+£60+£60+10, £190 just for tickets. Add in parking, a programme, food and beverages during the day and I'd get little if any change out of £300. What's the point of having a 60,000 capacity venue, if it doesn't sell more than 6,000 tickets?

    As for the postage size quip, you seem to be ignoring the need for Australia to have multi-sport stadia, hence the larger playing areas of places like the Sydney Cricket Ground; SCG is that size to accommodate Aussie Rules Football, not cricket. In England, top-class football, rugby (both codes), cricket, athletics, hockey have their own, dedicated stadia per sport/club, hence if you look at the total seating capacity of English sports stadia, you will see they dwarf the total seating available in Australia. (if you include Scotland, Wales & Ireland as a British Isles figure, you'll see that ratio climb even higher per head of population)

  • hayden on July 30, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    @ragebe fair enough i will stand corrected on the population of the uk and rose bowl capacity. however still not a fan of cardiff and chester le street hosting ashes tests!!! and even the rose bowl, from what im understanding here the venue is in the middle of no where but central to many other smaller towns??? put the big show in the big smoke!! london, birmingham, manchester and leeds!!! if cardiff want to host it then use their large venue in millennium stadium not the current postage stamp masquerading as a test venue with its temporary seating!!!

  • John on July 29, 2014, 12:16 GMT

    @David Simkins, living where I do there are no Test Match Grounds in the South unless you count the one's in Africa & Australasia.To me every ground is in the North,so count yourself lucky that you have that number of Test Match Grounds in the "North".

  • Dummy4 on July 29, 2014, 9:29 GMT

    Well if you live in the South West Eggyroe then the Cardiff test would have been ideal for you! However there is another example of a test match venue that failed to capture the imagination of enough of your geographical bed fellows. As the previous poster said, do we need another test match in the south??

  • Paulo on July 29, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    As a Hampshire member I'd love an Ashes test, however I'm not sure it'd be the most practical idea.

    The issue of accessibility. Public transport to the ground isn't great unless you're local. Fortunately as a member I could park near the ground. But £15 for those who aren't allowed to park near or at the ground (most people) to use the park and ride is ludicrous on top of the expensive ticket prices, especially as most people have no choice but to use it. That's exploitation.

    Also the issue of location. Yes the only test-ground near the south west. But with Lord's and the Oval pretty much guaranteed ashes tests, should there really be a 3rd test of 5 down south?

  • R on July 29, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    Not sure why there are comments with respect to capacity; i.e. redneck said:

    '..ideally i would like to see the ashes in the biggest venues english cricket has!!! lords, the oval, edgbaston, headingly and old trafford! venues like cardiff, chester le street, the rose bowl and even trent bridge are too small! i mean 15,000 is smaller than any venue australia has and you poms have what 4 times our population'

    But the only cricket ground in England with a greater capacity than the Rose/Ageas bowl's 25,000 is Lords.

    The population of Australia is around 23 million and the population of England is around 53 million. Not sure about basic sums in Australia (or basic English and the use of capitals for proper nouns) but in Blighty, 4 x 23,000,000 = 92,000,000

    For me, it's always the price of tickets and then subsistence in the ground. Being ripped-off for poor quality food and drink irks tremendously. So although HCCC is 'my county' and 'my club' I rarely attend, because I hate being tak

  • John on July 29, 2014, 7:34 GMT

    @Stumay, perhaps the reason there are lots of empty seats is the fact that the game started on a Sunday!.The reason for this in my opinion is the greed of the Cricket Boards of Control.They appear to want to shoehorn in so much cricket into a year as to reap the benefits of Television Money.If this means a Test Match starts on a Sunday so be it.In England the traditional day for Test Match starts was Thursday's which meant spectators could take 3 Days leave and watch the Test Match,by starting on a Sunday spectator's would require to take 4 Days leave and have to return to work on the Friday.@DavidSimkins,living as I do in the far South West,I do not find any Test Match Ground as geographically ideal,so just remember for quite a few England Supporter's the Cricketing World do'es not end South of London.Therefore an Ashes Test Match at the Rose Bowl or Taunton bring it on and sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.

  • hayden on July 29, 2014, 0:45 GMT

    whats wrong with the tried and proven traditional test venues???? ideally i would like to see the ashes in the biggest venues english cricket has!!! lords, the oval, edgbaston, headingly and old trafford! venues like cardiff, chester le street, the rose bowl and even trent bridge are too small! i mean 15,000 is smaller than any venue australia has and you poms have what 4 times our population? australia have the same amount of support in england as the poms do when they come here. the only difference our grounds are big enough for everyone to get a ticket, in england its barley enough room for the english supporters yet alone thravelling aussies

  • Android on July 28, 2014, 19:18 GMT

    @Gavin those grounds you mention have never been Test venues, that is what Rod Bransgrove was drawing the distinction over.

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