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Jamie Clifford: It’s good to be back at Beckenham

Thursday 4th June 2015

It is exciting for everyone connected with cricket in Kent to see LV= County Championship and NatWest T20 Blast matches back at our northern headquarters at The County Ground, Beckenham, writes Kent Cricket CEO Jamie Clifford.

We were delighted to welcome more than 5,000 spectators on Friday to what is a very different set-up to the last time we played senior county cricket there, and to have five days out of six against Surrey is in the best traditions of our shared history.

For many years, it was the Kentish soil at Blackheath’s Rectory Field that staged our home games against Surrey, and so it is fitting that our return to metropolitan Kent should feature five scheduled days of competition against one of our closest rivals.

Our return to a new-look Beckenham, however, is only in its early stages. I think I should stress that this is just Year One in our long-term plan to make Beckenham a well-appointed and spectator-friendly venue.

We want it to be seen as our permanent base – and home – in the north of our county, and we want all Kent supporters in this area to take real ownership of what we hope will very quickly become a fully-fledged festival week.

I would like to see a Beckenham Cricket Week become a festival of Kent cricket worthy to be set alongside our great, long-established cricket weeks at Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury.

Of course, it will take time to build up Beckenham so that it is seen in that light, but that is our aspiration and our ambition.

Club cricket in metropolitan Kent is always strong, and many great Kent cricketers of the past – and, indeed, the present – have come from this part of the county.

I hardly need to list examples, but Blythe, Mason, Valentine, Wright, Knott, Underwood, Dilley and Key are on it for starters. That is why metropolitan Kent should have a festival week to call its own, and there is a large Kent cricket-loving population in this area of around 1.6 million people to help to grow and sustain it.

The excellent crowds so far are a sign of that willingness to make Beckenham work as a vibrant venue for Kent cricket.

The more people who come along to watch Kent there will mean, as a club, that we can put more investment back into the facility.

We may have new buildings as a result of the redevelopment work that has gone on this past year or so, such as the new 2,000-seater stand, the Indoor School, conference and banqueting facilities, tennis courts, basketball court and floodlit football pitches, but there is still a bit of ‘no frills’ about things.

Our facilities still have an out-ground feel but that is something that can, and will, change in the next 20 years. In time, we can really turn Beckenham into a cricket venue that ticks all the boxes.

At this point I really do have to thank Leander, the landowner, and Peter Wilson and Andrew Braddon in particular from the company, for their support and vision. I don’t think there are many property developers around with the vision to work with a county cricket club in order to achieve what is being put in place.

Beckenham, in short, is fast becoming not just an improved and permanent home for Kent Cricket, but also a 12-months-of-the-year facility that is of enormous benefit to the community surrounding it.

Most exciting will be the reach it gives us for identifying and developing county cricketers. The journey has just begun.

See the final day of top-level cricket of 2015 at Beckenham this Friday (June 5) as Kent Spitfires take on Gloucestershire at The County Ground (5.30pm start, gates open at 3.30pm).

Click here to buy tickets and save £5 on gate prices