Champions Trophy is crunch time for Cardiff
Alan Hamer, Glamorgan's chief executive, has admitted that Cardiff's role as one of the host venues for the Champions Trophy "raises the stakes" for county and country and that their success or otherwise will have a direct impact on the SWALEC Stadium's prospects as a venue for international cricket in Wales.
Cardiff is up against Birmingham and London as one of three grounds hosting the June 6-23 event. While three of the five games at each of The Oval and Edgbaston sold out in the first round of ticketing, only one of Cardiff's - the opening fixture between India and South Africa - did so, with sales in the other matches, which include England's group game against New Zealand, described as average. A second, limited batch of tickets for all Champions Trophy matches, including India v Pakistan at Edgbaston, will go on sale on Monday morning at 10.30am BST (09.30 GMT).
With the next four-year cycle of international match allocations in England to include the World Cup and Ashes in 2019, as well as the proposed World Test Championship in 2017, Hamer believes an impressive Champions Trophy showing will help state Cardiff's case. While not a ground as storied as the likes of Lord's or Headingley, Hamer emphasised the importance of continuing to create that history and wants a "sports hungry" Welsh public to play their part, with the eyes of the cricket world watching. Welsh cricket is on a charm offensive.
"This is the first time we've had a global event here so it raises the stakes, not just for us but for the country as a whole because the TV audience isn't just UK-based, it's worldwide," Hamer said. "And it gives an opportunity for people overseas to understand a bit more about Wales and Welsh cricket. It is important to us because if this tournament goes well then it puts us in a strong position when it comes to staging future global events.
"We're still a relatively new ground in terms of history of international matches. The only way we're going to increase our 'database' is by staging more games. Other grounds have a lot more history and a lot more games than us. We've only got one Test match in the current four-year cycle, the 2015 Ashes, which is probably right, and at the end of the cycle we'll be in a far stronger position in terms of support base."
Tickets for the Champions Trophy - which is being held for the final time - are priced as low as £20 for adults sitting in the family sections, with the most expensive being the £60 "Gold" seats for the final at Edgbaston. Strategies for Cardiff include targeting the city's student population and invoking the successful sporting events held in Wales in recent years, from the Ryder Cup to multiple FA Cup finals and the 2009 Ashes Test.
Although there is the perennial competition from rugby and football for attention, there is a sense that the impending arrival of the world's best cricketers in Wales will catch the public's imagination. The tournament will open in Cardiff, with a ceremony at the medieval castle in the city centre, while teams preparing between matches will be based in nearby Newport, using local facilities.
Glamorgan will hand over control of their SWALEC Stadium - which will be rebranded as the Cardiff Wales Stadium - to the ICC for the duration of the tournament, meaning ticket revenue goes back to the governing body, but thronging crowds are likely to increase the "secondary spend" on food and drink, to go with the venue hire fee. "It is very much financially in our interest to do well," Hamer said. "We're incentivised to get as many bums on seats as possible."
Tickets for all 15 Champions Trophy fixtures will be available via telephone (0844 249 2013) and online at www.icc-cricket.com from 10.30am BST on Monday, April 8
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo