Middlesex fans may yet be allowed to watch their team in action this summer - with Lord’s among the possible venues touted to host spectators, according to chief executive Richard Goatley.
The Seaxes’ squad are due to begin a phased return to training later this week at Radlett after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed on Monday that it had approved county cricket to make its delayed start on August 1.
While the Cobden Hill ground is expected to stage at least some of Middlesex’s rescheduled fixtures, Goatley is not ruling out use of the club’s main venue at Lord’s, owned by the MCC.
“I’m still hopeful we might be able to have members in to watch cricket this year,” said Goatley. “We certainly haven’t given up on that.
“It depends what we’re allowed to do – there are lots of ifs, buts and maybes and I must reinforce the message that the safety of our players and staff is of paramount importance.
“With Lord’s, the reason for playing there does diminish if you don’t have crowds, but we need to see what fixtures there are and then talk to the MCC. They’ve got members who also want to see some cricket.
“We’ve got the best members in cricket at Middlesex. They understand the issues we’re facing and we’ve been doing a lot to try and keep them involved.
“They want to see us play cricket and that’s what we’re here for. I haven’t seen us play since last September and I’m fed up with that.
“We just want to play as soon as possible and as much as possible. When we get our first game done, we’ll all feel a lot better about it.”
While all 18 first-class counties are battling to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Middlesex have at least been spared the problem of covering running costs of an unused ground.
The county revealed plans last year to construct their own ground at Barnet Copthall, having identified a site adjoining Saracens Rugby Club.
That scheme has now been placed on hold – more a consequence of the fall-out from the rugby team’s recent misfortunes than any factors related to Covid-19.
Sarries were relegated from the Premiership last season and heavily fined for breaching salary cup regulations and Goatley explained: “The issues Saracens have had makes it less viable for us.
“We were looking at potential opportunities from being attached to their games, but the position has changed. So this project is on the back burner, but the concept isn’t.
“The idea of Middlesex having another ground is very important – it was one of my targets when I took this job.”
Overall, the chief executive remains confident Middlesex will emerge from the present crisis in decent shape.
He added: “It helps that we don’t own Lord’s – at the same time the cost of living in London is substantial. Our cost base is very high compared with some other counties.
“But it’s also a situation where we can be far more agile as a business. Potentially Covid-19 will mean reshaping the business, but I can certainly say we’ll still be here, still playing and still competing.
“I don’t see us losing sponsors over this. Our sponsors are very understanding, but clearly people don’t want to pay for something they don’t receive and the net result is they will pay us less.
“However, when you get a sponsor, you look after them long-term and our guys have done a really good job at making sure that happens.
“You learn a lot from situations like this and I’ve learned we have an incredible staff. They’ve taken pay cuts, yet they’ve dug in and done a magnificent job and that bodes really well for when we get back to normal.”
Written by Ben Kosky.