Cricket Ireland has taken a significant step towards the development of a new permanent Cricket Stadium at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Abbotstown.
This year’s historic first ever Test Match on Irish soil will take place at Malahide Cricket Club in Dublin, with the erection of temporary facilities seating 10,000 spectators.
It had been planned that Malahide would be the eventual permanent home for the International team but an expert report commissioned by Cricket Ireland has come down in favour of an alternative strategy based on future proofing for the rise in demand as part of the top flight of international cricket.
The decision is part of a wider strategy to ensure a network of international grounds are in place to deliver on the demands of future international and domestic first-class cricket in Ireland. At present Ireland has four venues to the right standard for International cricket but more and larger more permanent facilities are an essential part of the future of the sport here.
The timing of the decision is important as well with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport expected to invite expressions of intent for major infrastructural projects to benefit from the initial €50 Million for such facilities secured in the last budget.
“Cricket in Ireland is entering an exciting new phase, as we begin to understand more and more the implications and obligations of becoming an ICC Full Member, said Cricket Ireland CEO after a board meeting in dublin yesterday.
“We anticipate that the new Future Tours Programme will be finalised by the ICC in April this year. It is likely to involve the senior men alone playing about 60 home matches over the next five seasons. That number doesn’t include women’s or youth international matches, men’s Inter-Provincial and women’s Super 3’s matches, major club finals or any future competitions we might develop or host.”
“What has become abundantly clear to the Board is that this dramatic increase in our home schedule means that we will need to share the load beyond our four existing international-standard grounds around Ireland.”
The Expert analysis commissioned by the board evaluated the existing option of redeveloping Malahide Cricket Ground or pursuing the development of a new National Cricket Stadium at Abbotstown.
It recognised the short-term drawbacks of relocating to a site without the same quality of public transport links as at Malahide, but ultimately found in favour of relocating the primary national stadium development in Dublin to the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus.
“It has been no secret that our initial thinking was based around a re-development and expansion of Malahide Cricket Club,” added Deutrom.
“However, the report informed the Board’s deliberations around a number of important issues around venue access and future-proofing.”
“When we selected Malahide as the location for our main stadium in Dublin a decade ago, Irish cricket was in a very different position with a much smaller fixture list. By achieving Test status and joining the FTP, we’ve had to ask ourselves the tough question of whether that decision is still fit-for-purpose.”
“Fundamentally, if we are to request substantial sums from Government, we need to be sure we can deliver on our programme of cricket matches at permanently-constructed venues which are commensurate with our new status.”
“It was a decision the Board did not take lightly. Every member of the Board acknowledged the emotional ties we have developed with Malahide – particularly after some of the big games of recent years – and the decision should not in any way be seen as a reflection on the club.”
“In fact, Malahide’s members and volunteers have been superb to deal with over many years, but our entry into the FTP will place requirements for availability on the club that will be unrealistic for members who will understandably want access to their main pitch to play their own fixtures.”
“We have kept Malahide Cricket Club informed of the process, but regardless of any future decision we are keen for Malahide to remain in use as an international ground for many years to come, and we look forward to continuing our close coordination with the Club and its members.”
“Today’s announcement is simply a statement of intent by the Board – to keep discussions transparent and open with our fans, players and stakeholders within the game.”
At the same board meeting, the Board also approved its largest ever operational budget of €9M and released its 2017 performance scorecard.
“What has also become clear in compiling our very first ‘full member’ budget has been the onerous cost of being a Test nation, most obviously demonstrated in physically putting on a Test match,” said Deutrom.
“This is certainly no surprise, but ensuring we balance the cost of putting on Test matches against investment in the white-ball formats and other strategic areas will be an area for Board focus in the near future. This fact, combined with the significantly weaker US dollar (in which we receive much of our income), has had a real impact on our 2018 revenues, and therefore our options for investment.”
“That said, the budget does include a significant increase in financial resources dedicated to the women’s game and, recognising that progressing opportunity for women and girls within our sport remains a priority, we hope to see a number of initiatives around improving women’s cricket over the coming months.”
Image Credit: Donall Farmer, Inpho Photography