Essex have confirmed that they will not be holding a Colchester Festival in 2017. The club put the decision down to the vagaries of the fixture list, rather than finances, and say they will consider a return to Castle Park - which has hosted Essex for over a century - in subsequent seasons.
Rumours had swirled earlier this year that the fixture against Sussex in August would be the last Colchester Festival - fittingly marked, if so, by a century from the retiring allrounder and local favourite Graham Napier.
With the announcement of the 2017 fixture list, Essex are set to play all of their home fixtures at their Chelmsford headquarters. Essex's chairman, John Faragher, said the reasoning came down to the fact Essex only have one home Championship fixture between the end of June and their final game of the season, against Yorkshire on September 25-28.
Most of the reshaped fixture list is given over to the NatWest T20 Blast during July and August, a popular time of the year for counties to hold festivals. Essex host Somerset in the Championship on August 28-31, although they also entertain West Indies for a tour match at the start of the month.
County outgrounds have been vanishing from the fixture list for some time and the reduction in the number of Championship games from 16 to 14 next year is unlikely to help. Essex called time on their trips to Southend in 2011 and last played at Ilford in 2002.
"This was a very difficult decision to make, the Colchester Festival week has always been an integral part of the season, with players and members always enjoying the experience of visiting Castle Park," Faragher said.
"However, the club's committee decided that it was simply not acceptable to agree a fixture plan that would result in no Championship cricket at Chelmsford, for nearly three months in the middle of the summer. Going forward, we will review this decision and depending on the fixtures, hope to see Colchester back in the schedule for 2018."