Yesterday morning, an hour ahead of the fixtures being announced for next season, the Club published the news that it would be trialling two of its home group Vitality Blast matches at the Cloud County Ground in Chelmsford in 2024.
It is clear from the response to that announcement, from the many comments made by members on social media, and from those members who have contacted the Club directly, that we need to offer further clarity on the rationale for this decision to provide members with more insight and a greater understanding of why this difficult decision has been made.
First and foremost, we understand the initial reaction from members - as at face value, the logic of Middlesex playing two ‘home’ matches at the ground of another county seems is difficult to understand. Members have our assurance that this decision has not been taken lightly, and there are several reasons why we have had to do so – most importantly to ensure the financial stability of the Club moving forwards.
It is important to understand that the two matches at Chelmsford in 2024 are being run as a trial, which will be fully reviewed with members at the end of the season, however we sincerely hope that the following explanations give members more appreciation and understanding of the decision that has been made and why:
Will Middlesex members be able to attend these matches for free?
Absolutely. Middlesex members will be able to gain entry for free as a benefit of their membership.
What members’ facilities will be available for Middlesex members at the games?
Middlesex members will have exclusive access to the Pavilion and have designated members seating areas around the Pavilion.
Will Essex members receive the same benefits as Middlesex members at these matches?
No, Essex members will have to pay for entry and will have no rights to access the Pavilion or areas designated for Middlesex members.
What are the start times of the matches at Essex?
Both matches will be played in the evenings under the lights at Chelmsford, providing much more beneficial start times for members and spectators to attend.
At both Radlett and Merchant Taylors’ School, we would need to start Blast matches no later than 4.30pm, making the matches difficult for members to attend, especially those at school or with work commitments.
What do the players think of us playing ‘home’ games in Essex?
The players and coaching group welcome the opportunity to play at the best grounds they can when Lord’s is unavailable for Middlesex fixtures.
As a first-class venue, with a high standard of facilities, Chelmsford provides the best option available for these dates.
Are Middlesex paying Essex a fee to host these two matches?
Put simply – no.
Both Essex and Middlesex will pay 50% of the operational costs of the matches, which are approximately half what it would cost us to set up an out-ground at a club venue.
What potential revenue will Middlesex receive from these matches?
There are two main areas that Middlesex can benefit financially from playing at Chelmsford:
- Middlesex will receive a share of the gate revenue from each match.
- Middlesex will receive a share of the hospitality revenue for each match.
What is the financial upside of us playing these games at Chelmsford?
Essentially, playing at Chelmsford instead of an out-ground club ground already saves the Club a significant sum on the costs of setting up the game.
When potential revenue from gate receipts and hospitality are factored in, the Club stands to potentially be making a financial upturn of six figures plus.
How many matches are Middlesex playing at Lord’s in 2024 and why can’t we play all our games there?
Our priority is always to play as much cricket as we can at Lord’s, and in 2024 we will be playing a similar volume of cricket at Lord’s than we have in previous seasons.
We are still waiting on confirmation from Lord's that they will be able to host two of our Metro Bank One-Day Cup matches in 2024, which if agreeable, would see an increase in the volume of days of cricket Middlesex will play at Lord's this year compared to last.
We work closely with MCC and ECB when planning the fixtures every season, and secure as many match days at Lord’s as we can, however inevitably, with Lord’s hosting other matches, the ground is not always available to us.
When this is the case, we have no option but to play elsewhere, and have in recent years played our ‘out-ground’ matches at either Radlett Cricket Club or Merchant Taylors’ School.
There are three Middlesex Blast matches that Lord’s are unable to host in 2024!
As we usually use Radlett and Merchant Taylors’ School as our out-ground venues - why aren’t we doing so again in 2024?
The dates of the three matches we need to play away from Lord’s in 2024 are 31st May, 6th July and 18th July – all spread out at different times across the campaign.
The cost of setting up at out-ground, which essentially sees us turning a club ground with no spectator facilities into a venue that can accommodate up to 3,000 spectators, costs tens of thousands of pounds every time we do it.
In an ideal world, if the dates that we need to play at out-grounds are close together, then we can set the ground up once, incurring one cost, and this can be spread across multiple games – making it much more cost effective to play at that venue.
With all three matches spread so far apart in 2024, as dictated to by the schedule and by Lord’s not being available on those days, we would need to pay for three separate out-ground set-ups at Radlett which is simply not a cost-effective solution.
As we look to build a financially viable future for the Club, making a cost saving of somewhere in the region of six figures, is something the Club simply couldn’t ignore and hence we have had to look at alternative solutions.
Radlett will be hosting one Middlesex Blast game this year. Given the cost of setting this up, why are we still playing one game there?
The one Blast game we are playing at Radlett is the fixture against Hampshire on 6th July.
The reason we are hosting that game at Radlett and incurring the costs for the out-ground set up on this occasion, is because the Sunrisers are also playing at Radlett on Sunday 7th July – enabling us to spread the cost of this set-up across the two matches.
When was the decision to play at Essex made and were other first-class venues considered?
When the draft fixture plan came through from the ECB recently, and we then established that Lord’s was unavailable on these three dates, we began the process of looking at other suitable venues to host the three Blast games that Lord’s could not host.
The Oval was considered as a possible venue and Surrey were approached, as this would provide a more suitable solution from a travel perspective for members, however the Oval was unavailable on the dates we needed due to other match commitments.
We then began discussions with Essex, and an agreement was reached that provided a suitable solution.
Are there no other suitable club grounds within Middlesex that would provide a better solution than playing at Essex?
Again, cost would be the primary reason that dictates that this is not a viable solution, as it costs a similar amount to set up the ground at any club venue, irrespective of where it is.
Facilities and playing conditions are also a factor, and whilst Radlett and Merchant Taylors’ School’s facilities meet the minimum standards we set out for out-ground host venues, other Club grounds in Middlesex currently do not – effectively meaning that playing out-ground cricket at other club grounds could incur even greater costs.
Ideally, we would play all matches in or around Middlesex if we could, however the fixture dates in 2024 dictate that we would need to pay for three separate ground set-ups, which is simply not financially viable.
Could the Club not have consulted with members on this decision?
We would obviously have preferred to have consulted with members in advance of us making this decision, as we understand the inconvenience that this will potentially cause to many members, however the very short window of opportunity we had, after the fixture schedule was provided to us by the ECB, and to then liaise with Essex and reach a hosting agreement with them, made this impossible.
We sincerely hope that with a full understanding of the decision-making process that went into the decision, members will be supportive of the decision that has been reached.
Again, this is a trial, and members will be fully consulted in the process of reviewing this at the end of the season.
In closing, fundamentally, this presents the Club with an opportunity to save a significant amount on our costs, which we need to do if we are to continue to be financially sustainable and provides the added benefit of us being able to engage with the Middlesex boroughs and communities in the east region of the county.
We hope the above gives our members a greater understanding of the situation and puts some clarity to the decision we have reached.