From the CEO’s Chair – 3 May

Tuesday 3rd May 2011

A bumper CEO’s Blog this week following a week’s break. It has been a hectic fortnight. My thoughts, pre-Easter, were on getting the ground ready, and last week attention was on hosting the first cricket of the year at Canterbury. There was certainly not a double bank holiday bonanza for anyone working with Kent County Cricket Club.

The week leading up to Easter weekend was particularly frantic. Last minute work to the players’ dressing rooms; finishing off the media room and ensuring that the ground was safe for spectators were all priorities. The team from Cardy Construction pulled out all the stops and so we were able to start the season as hoped at Canterbury. We were helped by the lack of rain, which had hampered progress in the early part of the year, but it really was a great effort.

The players’ were pleased with what they found, and it was great to see their response to the new surroundings. Whether they will look forward to the ice baths with the same enthusiasm only time will tell. Certainly it is a considerable improvement to have a separate physio treatment room, double the space and dedicated video analysis area. In due course I hope to show the Club’s supporters these new areas.

It was very pleasing to get the ground operational too. It is a challenge to have a cricket ground running next door to a construction area, but we have worked hard to make sure the two can work side by side. I can only repeat what I have said to a number of supporters and that is thank you for your patience. Our stewarding team has been briefed to field comments, and I would encourage any visitors to the ground to speak to them if they have any observations.

I was very frustrated that the scoreboard failed for the opening fixtures. It had been working well until Good Friday. From then on we could not get it to stay switched on. The start of the bank holiday weekend was the worst possible time for this to happen, as we could not get an engineer out to see it. I am pleased to say that we have today got it up and running and so, barring further problems, it will be in full working order this week.

The one thing that the project team hadn’t anticipated was dust, and from the end of day one we were watering to ensure that it was damped down as much as possible. This prompted The Times to encourage their readers to find out “What Kent’s Chief Executive is doing with his hose” on their online service.

Disappointingly though, Ivo Tennant from The Times seemed determined to be critical of the work that is being done. I spent a considerable amount of time with Ivo trying to explain the thinking and the objectives to no avail. He seemed absolutely focused on presenting a gloomy picture.

Particularly irritating was his suggestion that "houses are mushrooming and encroaching even on the Colin Blythe Memorial" – this is certainly not the case. The Memorial is in safe storage away from the ground and will be repositioned when the entrance to the ground is completed. Finally, although I could go on, I found his suggestion that the floodlights had come from Stalag 18A not only ridiculous but also distasteful.

To counterbalance the negative, I must thank all those people who approached me to say how encouraging it was to see work underway. On Sunday in particular there was a genuine enthusiasm about the introduction of permanent floodlights – this bodes well for later in the season when we hope to pack out the ground. Many were also keen to express how pleased they were to see the dressing room building with the same style roof as the Pavilion and Annexe. Graham Morris, the renowned cricket photographer, told me he is very happy because it makes a wonderful backdrop for his pictures.

On the cricket front it was obviously disappointing to come up short against Gloucestershire and Worcester Royals. Crowds were very encouraging though, despite the chilly wind, and bigger than those for corresponding fixtures last year. Our biggest paid attendance against Gloucestershire was on the fourth day – curious given there was a rather big event going on elsewhere.

It was good to see the players bounce back and perform very well at Lord’s yesterday. When we were in the field you got a real sense of the determination to get a result. The younger players have all started their careers well and will now have the taste for further on field success.

Lots of Kent supporters made the trip to Lord’s and I certainly enjoyed the return train journey listening to some very pleased Kent fans. Away support does make a difference and I know it is appreciated by the team.

Tomorrow we welcome Northamptonshire to the St Lawrence Ground and on Sunday we play host to Yorkshire. The weather forecast is good for the week (getting warmer) and I am sure we will have a busy week. Let’s hope it is a successful one too!

Following this blog post, the Club received the following response from Ivo Tennant:

Open letter to the chairman, Kent CCC

Dear George

You would have noticed that when the three England captains were photographed at Lord'slast week, it was in front of the fine painting of Canterbury by Albert Chevallier Tayler.This was sold by your predecessor, who said the substantial proceeds would 'ring fence' the redevelopment. It turns out that the proceeds have been frittered away. That encapsulates the financial mess the club is in.

No-one can blame you for the recession that has affected so many other county clubs. We can, however, blame the club forits management down the years, which you yourself appear to have recognised through the staff changes you have made. Losing large sums on catering and a pop concert is not down to the state of the economy. Why was not the suggestion of Jim Woodhouse, your former chief executive, to bring in contacts from Cazenove, the leading stockbrokers, not followed up by Carl Openshaw? Ditto the offer of financial support from Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire benefactor who grew up in Kent? And surely there must be some wealthy individuals in the county who would support the club financially, even if that requires a stand or a building to be named after them? Why erect ugly floodlights when temporary ones could be brought in from time to time, as happens at Taunton, for example? Why pay senior players more than the club can afford?

I have consistently opposed the redevelopment because I feared the changes that would be made to the ground on which I grew up and have loved all my life. To walk into the building site last week, to see horse chestnuts cut down (why were they not protected?) to see the Blythe memorial removed, to see houses mushrooming on the Bat and Ball car park and on the old nets area, to see floodlights that were described to me by one of your own committee as 'scary' and towering over the ground with no stands to offset them as at Lord's and elsewhere, and to see the bank adjacent to the Cowdrey Standunnecessarily flattenedwas depressing beyond words. No-one would dispute that the stands were tired and indeed the dressing-rooms have clearly been improved. But a lovely, traditional and serene cricket ground has been ruined irrevocably.

I ask you this final question. Had Colin Cowdrey still been alive, could you have looked him in the eye in telling him that he would have had to drive into his beloved St Lawrence in future past a 'convenience' store?

yours sincerely

Ivo Tennant,The Times