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June 7, 2011
West Indies are set to become the first touring team since the 1998 Sri Lankans to miss out on a Test at Lord's, after it emerged that the England & Wales Cricket Board had offered next summer's fixture to Cardiff, in spite of the fact that the host county, Glamorgan, bid little more than half the £1million offered by MCC for the privilege.
The full itinerary for 2012 has yet to be announced, but it is understood that the ECB's major match group, an independent body chaired by the former Trade Unionist, Lord Morris of Handsworth, has recommended the West Indies Tests should be played at Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and Cardiff, with South Africa's tour later in the summer going to Lord's, The Oval and Headingley.
With London already set to host the 2012 Olympics next year, there is some merit in the ECB's decision to dilute the sporting focus on the capital, which will still be staging two of the summer's six Tests. Nevertheless, the route they have taken appears to fly in the face of their own policy of competitive tendering, with quotes from Paul Russell, the Glamorgan chairman, indicating that their bid for the West Indies' game cannot have been more than £600,000.
"We bid just over £2m for this game," said Russell last week, following a disappointing first Test against Sri Lanka, during which just 922 spectators turned up to watch England's thrilling final-day victory. "We have a West Indies Test match next year and the fee for that is less than 25% of what we paid for this game."
Russell also admitted to a "conceptual difficulty" in establishing Test cricket as a blue-riband sport in Wales, and Glamorgan needed a financial bail-out from the ECB last summer after the Pakistan match-fixing row, coupled with poor weather, wrecked the attendances at back-to-back Twenty20 games in September.
Lord's, however, is also feeling the financial strain, having made a loss of £2.4million for 2010. The ECB did offer the sop of a one-day international against West Indies, but MCC turned it down. "The MCC committee did not want to be party to an agreement that would deny the chance to watch Test cricket at Lord's," said a spokesman.
Relations between the ECB and MCC hit a new low on Monday evening, when the launch of the new Sri Lanka Premier League, scheduled to be held in the Long Room on Thursday, had to be cancelled because the event clashed with a Friends Life t20 fixture between Middlesex and Essex.
A statement read: "The agreement between ECB and FL precludes a launch of another competition, especially a Twenty20 competition, on the same day or indeed during a period set aside for FL media activity."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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