England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 1st day June 7, 2012

Washout tough on Warwickshire

For the second time in four years Edgbaston lost a total day to rain from a Test but insurance will largely cover the costs and the club has come a long way

This was not what Warwickshire envisaged when they spent £32 million on the redevelopment of Edgbaston. Allocated only one Test over the next three years, it was imperative that they maximised the earning opportunities from this game. A complete washout - their second in four years - on the first day has done them few favours.

Warwickshire will not actually lose any money on ticket sales. Thanks to the ECB insurance scheme, ticket holders will receive a full refund - minus a £1 handling fee - and the club may even benefit from selling more tickets on the fourth day in particular. While sales at bars around the ground were reduced, this was not the financial disaster it might have been. Apart from the fellow in the ice cream van, anyway.

It is worth reflecting for a moment on how far Warwickshire have come in recent years. By the end of 2007, they had a crumbling stadium and a team in the lower divisions of both competitions. Edgbaston's future as an international venue - and, as a consequence Warwickshire's future as a club - was in jeopardy.

If that sounds over the top it is worth remembering that membership fees account for about 6% of the club's income and, the last year in which the club did not host a Test - 2007 - saw them register what, at the time, was the largest loss - £892,000 - in their history. Without regular international cricket, Edgbaston, like many Test venues, is unsustainable.

Edgbaston is now a fine stadium. Redeveloped to an excellent standard, the capacity of 25,000 is second only to Lord's among UK cricket venues, while Andrew Strauss rated the players' facilities "as good as anywhere in the world." The media facilities are second to none.

Just as importantly, the club has a decent record of attracting a crowd that is less welcome elsewhere. While Trent Bridge and Lord's both declined to allow the Barmy Army's trumpeter to play at their Tests, Edgbaston have welcomed him and made the third day of this game a 'Barmy Army reunion day.' While Lord's may be the home of the cricket, Edgbaston could claim, with some justification, to be its playground. It is no coincidence that they are becoming - 2012 excepted - the regular venue for Twenty20 finals day.

Yet despite its fine facilities and large capacity Edgbaston still missed out when the major matches were allocated for 2013 and 2014. The ground will not host a Test against India or an Ashes encounter in those years. While the promise of five Champions Trophy games - including the final - is some compensation for 2013, 2014 "remains a challenge" in the words of Warwickshire's chief executive, Colin Povey.

Warwickshire's struggles are mirrored around the UK. Ever since Durham, then Hampshire and then Glamorgan started vying to host Test cricket, a once cosy market place has become cut throat and competitive. Where once six venues were, by and large, kept satisfied with a Test just about every year, suddenly there were nine Test venues (plus Bristol for ODIs, a ground that has just had planning permission for its expansion approved) engaged in an increasingly desperate fight for survival.

There were some obvious benefits from that arms race. For a start, the ECB's income increased considerably as grounds bid ever higher sums in an attempt to secure games. The competition also saw facilities also improved markedly for spectators, players and the media.

But the bidding wars were not sustainable. Once Glamorgan, backed by money from the Welsh Assembly, successfully bid more than double Lancashire's £1.5m to host an Ashes Test in 2009, it became apparent that something had to give. The huge levels of debt incurred by clubs looking to both redevelop and bid for games had driven several to the brink. It may still be that one or two do not make it.

Certainly Yorkshire, whose costly redevelopment actually appears to have made the ground worse, and Hampshire would have folded already were it not for the extraordinary benevolence of their respective chairmen, while Glamorgan - like Hampshire, struggling to pay their staging fees to the ECB - have been obliged to hand back previously allocated international fixtures. The first Test against West Indies, eventually held at Lord's, was scheduled to be held in Cardiff, while the New Zealand ODI they were allocated next year has become a t20 to be hosted at the Oval.

The prospect of a club going into administration, a scenario that for at least one county was hours from reality only a year ago, has forced the ECB into a rethink. Clubs no longer have to bid for international games: they are allocated through a system that takes into account issues such as the relevance of the match to the local community and its legacy value. For that reason, Trent Bridge, an excellent venue with wonderful links to the wider community, beat Edgbaston to the most attractive package of games over the next few years. It was, at face value, a hammer blow to Edgbaston's hopes of repaying their substantial debts.

But the future is not as grim as is sometimes portrayed. For a start, Warwickshire now has a thriving non-match day business, hosting weddings, parties and seminars that is expected to make £2m profit this year; above their business plan forecasts. They also host seven days of major matches this season - this Test plus an ODI and a T20I - that will keep their heads above the water. Their ticket sales for this game - though not wonderful - are higher than Trent Bridge's and would have forced every venue outside London to turn spectators away. They may not be taking the route to safety they originally planned, but they are getting there.

A key factor in Warwickshire's revival - and it should be noted that they are doing well on the pitch, too - is Povey. Povey is not to everyone's taste. He is not steeped in cricket, he does not suffer fools - a requirement of the role for many years - and he can be a touch abrasive. Crucially, he is utterly, unashamedly meritocratic; a characteristic that offends the well-meaning but ineffective fellows that used to abound in cricket administration.

But, in years to come, Warwickshire will be as grateful for his contribution as they are for the former secretaries Leslie Deakins and R.V Ryder. Povey has played a weak hand quite masterfully and transformed a decaying club to one that could have a golden future. Bearing in mind the mess he inherited and the recession that has been on-going, it is a remarkable effort.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matthew on June 9, 2012, 0:02 GMT

    Can we postpone this match and re play it again when the pointless one day series against Australia is supposed to be on?

  • Fred on June 8, 2012, 17:23 GMT

    Sounds like yet more olympic nonsense. I'd love it if they organised an extra test match against SA maybe at Edgbaston! Either that or they should make it a 6 Test Ashes like old days. If Cardiff can be changed to Lord's last minute then i'm sure the ECB can do what they like. Would it be so wrong to have two different teams play at the same time. The Test team play SA - drop Cook for 1 match while Cook, Bopara, Woakes, Meaker, Patel, Davies, Dernbach, Monty etc play the Aussies in ODI. This must clearly break some rules but if it's money and exposure they are worried about why not get double of both! There is clearly plenty of interest!

    Do captains ever forgo an innings in this situation? Who does it benefit more to do that. I'd say it would make a real match of the remaining days. I can't imagine Sammy can be that happy with the idea of drawing a match due to rain and would pass up the oppurtunity to try and win a match. England have nothing to lose by doing this either. Discuss.

  • Peter on June 8, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    This is really tough and unfortunate for Warwickshire CCC. The facilities they've invested so heavily in are absolutely first rate, and with the new increased capacity - PLUS the fact that this place always produces a festival and raucous atmosphere like no other English Test ground, makes it confusing to say the least that it'll miss out on Tests for the next two seasons. It may still not be the most pictureque of Test venues, but it creates a unique and all-inclusive atmosphere which will be sorely missed during next years Ashes. No doubt Durham will do a great job staging an Ashes Test next year, but is it really wise to dismiss a 25,000 capacity state-of-the-art stadium that we all know produces an electric atmosphere? Come on ECB, The Ashes deserves the best venues, and surely nobody could argue against Edgbaston being one of them.

  • John on June 8, 2012, 15:42 GMT

    @sohaibahmad on (June 08 2012, 12:21 PM GMT) - I know you mean well , but the thing is that would take a whole load of organising and you can't really pay loads of people to be on reserve and that's not to mention those who have tickets and possibly have had to seek travel/accomodation if they are not local. Also if you know the English weather and how accurate (NOT) our forecasters can be , even if you changed venues overnight it might not guarantee good weather at the reserve venue

  • Michael on June 8, 2012, 15:26 GMT

    Could hastily arrange for an extra Test v SA!!?? That is a polite request to any ECB admin. Otherwise the idea of a reserve day seems excellent. I do not agree with some of these major grounds being denied Tests so much,especially this one, so one test in 3 years seems dumb to the point of idiotic. Generally guaranteed a good game at Edgbaston A win by E over in WI is possible as at Leeds in 2000, especially if cloud cover remains. But is the weather going to hold for even that long? Looks like yet another bummer summer(yawn)

  • Jason on June 8, 2012, 14:58 GMT

    @FredJ000, well Lords is being used by the Olympics which is why unusually the Last test of the series is at lords, however I think its more to do with there being no back to back tests (more games for the counties) in the series, and also the T20WC starting in mid September, which has caused a foreshortening of the international season..I personally agree there should have been atleast one extra test but in order for england to get some aclimitisation games in australia they had give the Aussies some ODI's this year.

  • Fred on June 8, 2012, 13:40 GMT

    @sohaibahmad reserve day doesn't really work and moving the match now to say, cardiff is totally unfair on the people of birmingham and warwickshire county etc etc.

    Why the h*** are we playing the Aussies this year!? who cares? And how does the Olympics effect cricket in any way?

    I wonder if Sammy and Strauss will decide to forgo an innings each and make a game of it - perfectly within the laws of the game.

  • j on June 8, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    Even the best team in the world will struggle to win a test match in 2 days. This reminds me of the Sri Lanka series in 2009.

  • Russell on June 8, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    Anderson will be fit by the time this Test starts!!

  • david on June 8, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    fredj000 im not to sure of the exact details. but its part to do with the olympic games. were no major international games of any sport can be played in the uk during those times. perhaps cricinfo can maybe explain

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