Floodlit revolution nears completion as Leicestershire next in line
Leicestershire are seeking to placate residents' concerns over their plan to install permanent floodlights at their Grace Road ground without which they warn they could go bankrupt within five years
Leicestershire are seeking to placate residents' concerns over their plan to install permanent floodlights at their Grace Road ground as they seek to join the mass adoption of evening Twenty20 matches which are regarded as a vital component in ensuring English cricket's professional survival.
Without floodlights, Wasim Khan, Leicestershire's chief executive, who has been entrusted with reviving the ailing county, has warned it could disappear within five years.
Fourteen of the 18 first-class counties now have permanent floodlights, which has enabled them to push back the start times of matches in the NatWest T20 Blast, allowing spectators to get to the matches after work and acting as a prime driver of record attendance levels.
Only Worcestershire, alone among the 18 first-class counties, have not begun to draw up plans for permanent floodlights - their New Road ground is on a flood plain - with the recognition now universal that they are essential for maximising the appeal of Twenty20 cricket in England.
Of the late adopters, Gloucestershire were granted planning permission in April after Bristol City Council reversed its decision and overturned residents' protests, an outcome that was also necessary for the county to stage matches in the 2019 World Cup.
Somerset are also drawing up a planning submission for floodlights with the 2019 World Cup partly in mind, as part of the next phase of redevelopment at Taunton that will include improved drainage, a new stand and an upgraded scoreboard. They held a public meeting in September to appease concerns.
Leicestershire's submission is for 40 metre high permanent floodlights at Grace Road ground as part of a £1 million investment. This has been met with concerns in a resident's meeting about potential light pollution in a residential area and the appearance of the floodlights.
Khan said: "I spoke to the residents and tried to get across that the way cricket is moving we need to be sustainable or we might not be here in five years' time.
"We need the lights to be able to play later in the evening. It means we could start later T20 games later and get more people in the ground who would come after they finished work.
"I understand people's concern about light spillage but I think that is based on the experience of the temporary flood lights that the club used a few years ago. The science and technology has moved on so much since then. We are talking about getting the best floodlights available and there really will be minimal light spillage."
Khan hopes Leicester City Council will grant planning permission for the lights so that Leicestershire can start work on erecting them in February.
Floodlights at county grounds now bear little resemblance to the temporary structures that were initially used in the early days of T20. They were barely adequate in terms of the quality of light cast on the playing area and light escaped over a wider area.
Experience at other counties with permanent lights suggests that initial opposition has not been followed by widespread complaints once the floodlights have come into use. Far from being regarded as an eyesore - the sort of hostility reserved by some towards wind farms - some have even been regarded as alluring from a distance, as many who look upon towards Headingley's lights from outlying suburbs such as Chapel Allerton can now testify.
The reputation of T20 cricket in England was undermined during a quarter-final between Worcestershire and Hampshire at New Road in August. The match ended in farcical circumstances as bad light forced an early end to proceedings, Hampshire progressing to Finals Day with the help of rain tables, having bowled just 8.1 overs in Worcestershire's run chase.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps