From the CEO’s Chair – Jamie Clifford’s Blog -8 June

Wednesday 8th June 2011

Once again Tunbridge Wells Festival Week proved to be a week to remember. We were blessed with marvellous weather during the Championship match and the ground was looking its best. There is just something about The Nevill – it is a ground that was made for festival cricket. Everything ran extremely smoothly, which is testament to the hard work of our staff, with only one day down time after the Derbyshire match at Canterbury. I must say thank you too to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club who were both, as ever, exceptional in their support of the week.

On Friday the players went to The Royal Victoria Place Shopping Centre in Tunbridge Wells to help promote the start of the Twenty20 competition, which was part of our PR campaign around the week. I gather that this was a well supported event and the players were signing the Club’s posters for nearly an hour. I am delighted that the players are helping to promote the Club, and I thank them for their continued commitment to the activities the sales and marketing team are running.

It was a busy week away from Tunbridge Wells too, with the signing of two overseas players. We have been rather cagey about these signings, but this is simply because there is so much that can go wrong. From the moment you agree with a player that he will be coming, to the moment he actually takes the field is a complex period.

Numerous pieces of paper have to be completed: a registration document submitted to ECB, a ‘No Objection Certificate’ obtained from the Board of the country the player is coming from, and of course the small matter of a Visa application, to say nothing of booking hotels, flights etc. While this process is completed the players are moving around different parts of the world: Charl travelled from Chennai to Bangalore to Cape Town to Johannesburg to Heathrow to Canterbury, before finally walking onto The Nevill. Wahab Riaz will have travelled from St Kitts to Belfast to Lahore to Abu Dhabi to Heathrow, before (we hope) taking the field at Taunton. For these reasons we tend not to reveal who we are signing in advance, until we know absolutely that things are in place.

So the Twenty20 campaign is underway. We had a tremendous crowd on Friday night for the Somerset fixture – nearly 5,000 people were at The Nevill. Then on Sunday we experienced a tedious, damp afternoon. Days like those, where it drizzles all day are painful for us all. I have huge sympathy with spectators waiting patiently for the weather to change. I also understand that it is hard for the umpires – they can’t win really, needing to balance the players’ safety and the need to get a game on. As a gesture of goodwill, and as recognition that many had left the ground before the five over game, we are offering all who had a ticket to Sunday’s fixture the chance to come to a day’s cricket later in the season. Click here for further information.

A quick thank you to those who stopped me for a chat at Tunbridge Wells, it was good to speak to people who follow the fortunes of the county from afar, but only get to see live cricket during the Festival Week. Many were keen that I understood the importance of taking county cricket to West Kent. Well, given the crowds that we had, I don’t need much convincing. It will certainly be a big decision when we allocate venues for next year’s match programme.

Work at Canterbury continues on the Chiesman Pavilion and the Les Ames Stand. Cardy are working long days to ensure that the buildings are in use on 18th June. It should mean that we are able to open both buildings for the first floodlit game under the new lights at the St Lawrence.

Hospitality sales for the refurbished Les Ames stand are particularly encouraging – already we have sell outs for Essex and Sussex fixtures in the Twenty20, the third day of Canterbury Week (Friday) and just one box available for the first floodlit game (Middlesex) and India fixture. If you would like to book a box, email for more information.

The floodlights have been tested over the last few days, and last night the players trained under them for the first time. Today, the second XI play a Twenty20 double header against Hampshire – the second game will be floodlit. They really are of a high quality and are certainly worth seeing. Make sure you have your tickets for the opening night on 18th June.

Finally, a recommendation of a book about county cricket that has recently been published. ‘Behind a Boundary’ by Graeme Wright has just come out, and he was kind enough to send me an advance copy. I met with Graeme whilst he was writing the book, and at that stage it was clear that it would highlight some of the great challenges facing county cricket. I think he has done a very good job – it certainly helps to explain why counties are under considerable financial pressure and the extent of the issues facing ECB in managing and leading the game. The regular follower of county cricket will be interested in the insight it provides and I can recommend it to anybody intrigued by the workings of the domestic game.

Best of luck to the squad as they head west to play Somerset on Friday night and Glamorgan on Saturday, and look out for the game live from Cardiff on S4C (it starts at 6pm, Sky 134). Criced: Morgannwg v Caint – good luck with the commentary.