Cardiff steps up its Test ambitions
Cardiff's city councillors are backing ambitious £7 million plans to bring Test cricket to Glamorgan's home ground in Sophia Gardens, after a series of "very positive" discussions with club officials.
Sophia Gardens, which has hosted five one-day internationals in the past six seasons, including Bangladesh's famous victory over Australia in last summer's NatWest Series, has been Glamorgan's home ground since 1967. The aim of the current plan is to prepare the current ground for international cricket by 2009.
Lying in the heart of Cardiff's historic parklands, the ground currently has a capacity of 5500, but expansion is essential if it is to join Durham's Chester-le-Street and Hampshire's Rose Bowl on the next tier of candidates for permanent international status. A capacity of up to 17,000 is seen as a pre-condition of any formal approach to the England & Wales Cricket Board, and a new planning application has been submitted with a view to creating a pavilion, grandstand and Media Centre.
The council believe that one way to push the venue's prospects would be to relocate the nearby Welsh Institute of Sport to a new £700million sports village in Cardiff Bay, thus leaving space to create a venue, in the words of a Glamorgan press release, "with the potential to rival the Adelaide Oval as one of the most beautiful in world cricket."
"They have a concept of an international sports village and moving the Sports Council for Wales and the Welsh Institute of Sport in there would give it huge credibility," Dr Huw Jones, the sports council's chief executive, told the BBC. "At the moment it's nothing more than in idea. It's not even a proposal."
Mike Fatkin, Glamorgan's chief executive, added: "The discussions we have had with the council have been very positive. There is a willingness on their part to help us with our aspirations. Obviously there is a lot of advantage to the local economy, especially from the city's point of view with the [FA Cup] football moving away from Cardiff."