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Club Update: Spring 2024 (Part 3)

Wednesday 28th February 2024

Kent Cricket

The response to this series of Spring Updates has been tremendously encouraging; thank you once again to everyone who has taken the time to provide feedback and constructive comments. It’s particularly striking to hear from a number of Members and supporters who follow Kent from afar.

It’s clear that there is plenty of interest across the country and indeed the world and we have an opportunity to build on our Members’ Forums – I can certainly see these Updates settling into a quarterly pattern.

This is the third and final part of my Spring Update and I will share some reflections on the current challenges and opportunities facing Kent Cricket and the wider game.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

Members will shortly be receiving their copy of our Kent Cricket Report & Accounts for the Year ended 31 October 2023. More detail and further reflections are contained in my CEO Report and the Chair’s Report but this latest Update will provide an introduction to the key themes.

Xavier Bartlett

It’s fantastic to see the positive feedback from our Members and fans online following our announcement that Australia’s Xavier Bartlett will be with us for the start of the season.

The conditions of Xavier’s No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Cricket Australia will state that he can play in:

  • Any six of Kent Spitfires’ first eight Vitality Blast T20 matches in 2024, with the option to feature in the rest of the Vitality Blast South Group stage subject to franchise cricket commitments.
  • Any five of Kent’s first seven County Championship matches, to manage his bowling workload (as agreed with Cricket Australia & Queensland Cricket).

We’re extremely excited to see both Xavier & Wes Agar complement our domestic bowling attack at the start of the season.

Finance Update & Outlook

We’ll be announcing our Financial Results for financial year ending 31 October 2023 shortly – it shows a challenging picture with the condition of the economy and uncertainty on the global political stage setting the context.

Despite the loyal support from our Members, supporters and commercial partners, the impact of inflation across all aspects of the Club’s activities have comfortably outstripped revenue growth. Whilst short term, the Club is managing the financial impact, this is clearly not sustainable. This challenging picture is not unique to Kent Cricket and is a picture seen particularly across the non-Test match grounds, where we are more reliant on broadcast income than the Test match and Hundred venues.

Looking forward, we must continue to manage the Club’s cost base extremely carefully and reduce financial risks by making sure that our day-to-day decisions are based on best possible analysis and forecasts. We must also continue to chase down every possible revenue opportunity.

The reality remains that we have two first-class stadia to maintain – The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence and The County Ground, Beckenham – and both will require significant investment in the medium-term to stay competitive with other venues.

The future of Men’s & Women’s domestic cricket

At the same time as facing these short and medium-term challenges, the long-term opportunities for the game of cricket have never been greater. Our current heavy reliance on English cricket’s domestic and international media rights income must not be a limitation to our ambitions.

Cricket has been selected to take place at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028, the Indian cricket powerhouse continues to grow, and it’s evident too that cricket in England & Wales, specifically The Hundred, is now seen an attractive prospect for investors.

Much of 2023 has seen ECB and county leadership focused on asking questions around the future growth options of The Hundred – Men’s and Women’s – and on the future of the Women’s County and Regional game. Throughout all discussions, we’re conscious of the need to protect the interests of the Club, our Members and supporters.

  • Growing The Hundred – Men’s domestic game

Like it or not, we have to accept that The Hundred has been a huge success with broadcasters and has successfully attracted new eyeballs to watch cricket in this country including a return of cricket to the BBC with the agreement of the game’s key broadcast partner, Sky who see the bigger picture.

We must think of The Hundred as our version of the IPL – if we can secure The Hundred’s position as a world class white-ball competition, second only to the IPL, then ultimately the revenues generated can help sustain the county network from grassroots to the professional game.

ECB is leading a project widely reported in the national media aimed at growing The Hundred and creating an investment proposition for investors based at home or overseas to put more money into domestic cricket, and our stadia.

Talks are ongoing to expand The Hundred from 8 to 10 teams. If the expansion takes place, two counties who are not currently Hundred venues will have the opportunity to establish themselves as important cricket venues for the expanded competition; they will be on TV hosting matches in front of a new global audience, they will be able attract the best players, generate additional income from ticket sales and have greater financial resources to invest in the county game.

And we – Kent Cricket – are at the heart of the debate for one key key reason; a reason which was picked up by Tim Wigmore in an on-line article in The Telegraph on 12 February:

“It is thought that a third team (in London) could heighten the capital’s efforts to engage the inner-city population. Research has found that a disproportionately low share of professional cricketers in England hail from London… While there are no other grounds beyond Lord’s and The Oval with a big enough capacity in London to host Hundred matches, Kent recently gained planning permission to increase the capacity of Beckenham, which can already host around 10,000 spectators. In time, the ground could potentially be in a position to host some Hundred games, acting as a secondary venue for a London side.”

Whilst factually incorrect (we do not have a recent planning permission, the current capacity is 6,000 and our aspirations would be a primary host venue), the opportunity opened-up by the expansion to ten teams for Beckenham, located as it is in the heart of South East London and with 1.2 million living in the four “metropolitan Kent” Boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, is clear to see.

  • The County Ground, Beckenham

With Canterbury in the East and our metropolitan bridgehead Beckenham in South East London, we are one of the few first-class counties with two first-class venues. This is at a time when Test match grounds are all frantically searching for second venues to cope with the growing demand for Men’s and Women’s Cricket.

As an existing site of 24 acres in South East London, Beckenham has been identified as a potential venue for a third London team in The Hundred.

With only 11 years remaining on the lease at Beckenham, we have been working hard to identify a route that would give us long term security of tenure; a pathway to secure a long lease or freehold. We have made significant progress in this area which we detail in our Report & Accounts.

Given the active debates and in the light of progress on the security of tenure question, the Board are now actively considering how investment in The County Ground, Beckenham could help secure Kent a long-term place at the top table of English cricket and importantly secure the futures of both The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence in Canterbury and The County Ground, Beckenham.

And I stress, BOTH Canterbury and Beckenham.

In 2013, Planning Permission was Granted by the London Borough of Bromley for:

– An indoor cricket training centre/multi-sports hall – opened in 2015
– A state of the art, significantly enlarged all-weather playing surface – opened in 2015
– A health & leisure club – yet to start
– A small conference facility – yet to start

Whilst there remains significant work ahead –  particularly in terms of financial and planning feasibility – we believe that we should be ambitious with plans for what could be the future of The County Ground, Beckenham.

Lancashire, Sussex, Northamptonshire and Surrey are all at various stages of searching for or securing second grounds. We’re blessed with two venues at either end of the Kent Cricket area – serving communities from Deptford to Dover – and we believe both have a role to play in the future of Kent Cricket.

  • Women’s domestic cricket

You’ll recall that in 2016, the Women’s Super League was formed featuring six WSL teams, of which Kent was not one. The position was slightly mitigated when the South East Stars – a partnership between Kent Cricket and Surrey CCC – was created in 2020, with Beckenham operating as the principle training and matchday venue.

ECB has recognised that women’s cricket is best organised on a county basis and so tenders are going out inviting applications for the first eight elite ‘Tier 1’ or “Premier League” counties for the period 2025-2028. A tender process for the next eight to ten ‘Tier 2’ or “Championship” counties will follow.

Given the hugely successful powerhouse that we have been throughout our history, and with a significant number of England players, we’ve always believed that Kent has an important role to play in the development of the Women’s game.

We remain ambitious for the women’s game and we’re giving serious consideration to submitting a Tier 1 bid with Beckenham at its heart.

This would be a long play; it’ll take time for our investment to provide a financial return. However, the long-term direction for the Women’s game is undoubtedly one of growth. If we’re to submit a bid, we’ll need the financial support of commercial partners, cricket fans, benefactors, and anyone who believes that every boy and girl growing up in Kent deserves an equal opportunity to become a professional cricketer and represent their home county of Kent and potentially go on to play for England.

If you share our vision and want to express support for our prospective bid, or know anyone that might be able to provide financial support, do please reach out to me.

Club Governance

The Report & Accounts which will shortly be received by Members will include a full update from our Kent Cricket Nomination Committee on Board appointments. Within the Report, there are a couple of key announcements which I’ll share now for the wider audience.

In order to comply with recently updated ECB policy on Board terms of service, Simon Philip will need to resign as Chair and step-down from the main Board of Kent Cricket by 30 September 2024. At the time of writing, Simon has served 15 years on the General Committee/Board and 8 seasons as Chair during which time the Club’s fortunes on and off the field have been transformed.

Also, Jeremy Cowdrey our Vice Chair, has decided that the upcoming AGM is an appropriate time for him to leave the Board after six years of service.

By announcing this news in February, the extended period prior to Simon stepping down will enable a smooth transition and the Nominations Committee will shortly begin an open and inclusive process to find replacement Non-Executive Directors and a new Chair.

I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Simon and Jeremy for the leadership that they’ve provided the Club and the support, challenge and guidance they have provided to me and the Executive team.

It’s reassuring to know that both Simon and Jeremy are ready to remain actively involved with Kent Cricket and I hope we will continue to benefit from their skills and expertise as we face into the major challenges and opportunities ahead us with the Men’s and Women’s game at both Beckenham and Canterbury.

Well, that just about wraps it up for my Spring Update. As I’ve written each of these Updates, I’ve been reminded of the privilege it is to serve as Chief Executive of this great Club.

Few organisations have the ability to make such a wide-ranging and positive difference to so many people; whether it’s our Men’s and Women’s elite teams, the work that we do with schools and local community cricket clubs, our St Lawrence Clinic or the work carried out by our sister charities, Kent Cricket Community Trust and Kent Cricket Heritage Trust; we truly are better, together.

Do please get in touch with us on if you can help us in anyway – we have many volunteering opportunities and we’re always grateful to receive one-off financial contributions; donations and bequests are often directed to fund our boys and girls development pathways or help us with a project to improve facilities around the ground.

Or you could join us as a sponsor and partner with the Club, to network, become part of the Team Kent Business Club Family, raise your profile, all whilst enjoying some hospitality on matchdays.

Your support does make an incredible difference.

In the meantime, we are all starting to count down the days. The cricket season will soon be here!

Simon Storey
Kent Cricket CEO

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here