From the CEO’s Chair – Jamie Clifford’s Blog – 9th September

Friday 9th September 2011

From the CEO’s Chair – Jamie Clifford’s Blog – 9th September

After the disappointment of the Friends Life t20 quarter final, the players added to their Canterbury Week wins with two further wins against Middlesex. First under the floodlights and then a win in the County Championship – and an exciting Saturday afternoon finish.

The Friday of the Championship fixture was special, with the ground busy with lots of people from the recreational game at the ground. It was a good occasion and an opportunity to celebrate the long service of some wonderful club cricket volunteers who received Alan Albury Awards. That day, the Outstanding Service to Cricket Awards (OSCAs) were also presented. It was a wonderful celebration of the health of the game in the county, and many clubs brought youngsters to enjoy a day at the St Lawrence Ground.

During the game, George Kennedy, the Club Chairman and I held one of our regular meetings with members. We were asked about the costs of running the floodlights – which are estimated at £70 per night – this was reported the next day as £70k per night!

The Club then travelled to Hove to play Sussex again under lights. This game was televised, and some of our young players came to the fore. It was pleasing to see, and Geraint who was captaining the side in Rob’s absence wasn’t afraid to give them a go. It was a big week for Geraint as his award of a Benefit for 2012 was announced too. As others have said his Benefit is much deserved, and I am sure he will have a very well supported year.

Focus the following week turned to the India game and preparations began in earnest. It was a big week for the club, with the opportunity to give a big crowd a day to remember. It was certainly a day I won’t forget in a hurry.

The whole day was slightly surreal. To have the world’s biggest names at Canterbury is a big enough challenge on its own, but with security for the tour at an all time high following the riots there was a lot to get right. The team arrived safely which is always a big concern, and then the heavens opened – and did it rain. From just after midday to the schedule start time of 2.30pm it rained hard. This came after a night of rain. I have a photo that I took on my phone, with a river running from the bowlers run ups to the Old Dover Road side of the ground, which it is impossible to believe was taken in August.

I was extremely concerned that we may not get a game on. It is a very difficult thing to explain to people, but the ground was absolutely saturated. Even 4 hours later when the umpires announced there would be a twenty20 game, it was incredibly wet underfoot. To explain to a big crowd that despite there being no rain for 5 hours there would not be any cricket would have been difficult. I was mightily relieved.

What many were not aware of was what was happening in Canterbury. During the afternoon news filtered through that there had been an explosion in Marks & Spencer and a suspect package had been found near the Pheonix Pub (in Old Dover Road). We received a briefing from police and were encouraged to be vigilant.

At the conclusion of the game a suspect package was reported. As a consequence, the Club accelerated the evacuation of the ground. I must thank members and supporters for their co-operation with this – it was not possible to explain why we were so keen for people to leave the ground at the time. The Indian team and management were returned safely, under police escort, to their hotel shortly after.

Following police assistance and a visit from the Army Bomb Disposal team the ground re-opened at 3am. There were some very tired people that left the ground in the middle of the night. Including the two umpires – who had been evacuated too!

Crowd safety is our top priority and I was very pleased with the way our Safety and Stewarding team handled this incident. Particular thanks should be given to Mo Moroney our Safety Officer who was calm and professional all day under some very trying circumstances.

Spare a thought though for the Catering Team who were on the ground bright and breezy first thing on Saturday for a wedding in the Harris Room. It went well and probably seemed a doddle after the previous day. The visit of Derbyshire on Bank Holiday Monday certainly seemed quiet in comparison. Again a good celebration of grassroots cricket took place though, with all the Kent Young Cricketers squads at the game.

The excellent win against Essex was overshadowed by the pitch being rated 'poor'. It was a disappointing outcome, but one which we accept. The pitch was not good and the process and penalty seemed fair. Whilst it was a difficult lead in to that game we have to produce the best possible pitches at Canterbury and this is something we will work hard to ensure.

This brings me almost up to date. On Monday of this week I attended a County CEOs meeting at The Oval. At the end of this meeting Alan Fordham contacted me to ask whether Kent would be willing to play the final 4-day game of the season under floodlights; they were also in the process of asking Glamorgan. Shortly after the Club agreed to the initiative, and this was then taken forward to the ECB Cricket Committee.

On Tuesday evening we received confirmation that the Cricket Committee had approved the game and a public announcement was made. There has been much debate since about the prospect of a first class game played under lights. The feedback I have received has been fairly balanced with as many ‘anti’ as ‘pro’.

I am pleased that we have been chosen for the trial, and I am fascinated to see how it will work. I do believe that in the future a round of the County Championship could be played under lights across the country. I think this would be popular, have a high profile and engage an audience who otherwise can only get to one day and t20 cricket.

Once again we will be hoping for some decent weather – I have already started to keep an eye on the long range forecast and it looks ok at the moment. We have made entry to the final, evening session (from 6.40pm) free of charge and I do hope that people come and see a first for cricket in this country.

Photo by Sarah Morecombe