Derbyshire County Cricket Club to ask members for approval for £2.5m revamp of ground
DERBYSHIRE are to ask their members to approve major plans to improve the look of the County Ground and to streamline the way the club is run.
An ambitious £2.5m redevelopment of the club's Derby headquarters, which could see a new pavilion and a new media centre in place for the start of the 2014 season, are to be outlined in a letter to members this month.
The ground improvements will greatly increase the club's ability to generate income and so give them more flexibility to keep improving the quality of the team but to get the finance in place to fund it, chairman Chris Grant says they need to make changes to the way the club is governed.
Grant is proposing cutting the size of the committee down from the current 15 to around nine and that everyone on the new committee would have to bring a specific professional skill to the table, so that the club would be run on more businesslike lines.
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Effectively, it would signal the end of ordinary members serving on the committee because they are keen to do their bit to help – but there would still be a role for those members.
The club are also suggesting setting up a network of eight regional representatives to keep in touch with and pass on the feelings of the membership across the county.
Though they could be accused of being turkeys voting for Christmas, the committee have already accepted the need for restructuring at their last meeting this month – and now Grant is hoping the members do the same.
The £2.5m needed for the ground redevelopment plans will come from the England and Wales Cricket Board and from Derby City Council.
The ECB has made £1m available to each of the 18 counties from its renegotiated TV deal for use to improve what it terms "the customer experience". It is encouraging the clubs to make their grounds better places to watch cricket.
Though the £1m would take the form of a loan in name, it is not one they expect to ever see repaid.
Derbyshire have been in talks with the city council about raising the remaining £1.5m through their regeneration fund and though the club would be responsible for paying that back with interest, Grant says the extra earnings potential the new facilities would bring could more than offset this.
"We will only take it on if we feel we can make a positive return," he said. "Yes, we would be taking on some debt but in my view, that's actually a healthy thing to do to improve the facilities and increase the potential earning we have in the ground.
"We believe we could really then turn the County Ground into a model non-Test match venue.
"We've made significant progress with the marquee, the Falcons stand and the Gateway and this £2.5m would allow us to continue that work and move forward.
"In my opinion, it's the right time to continue to invest with what is happening on the field."
The new Derbyshire pavilion would be similar to the one built by Worcestershire at New Road, which has been a huge success in helping them attract business from conferences and such all year round.
Improving media facilities would be in line with the ECB's wishes and would reflect the importance of the money the broadcasters, especially Sky, now pump into the sport.
Most supporters would welcome better facilities at the County Ground but the committee restructuring is likely to be more contentious.
The club are to write to members and will hold forums in Derby and in Chesterfield to explain their case. The members will vote on whether to accept the changes or not, with the result to be announced at a special general meeting straight after the AGM on March 27.
The change will have to be accepted by two thirds of the voters and would come into effect straight away but Grant has stressed the restructuring will not affect the members' rights.
"This is not about me or anyone else trying to buy the club. It won't mean we have paid committee members, nor is it about taking away members' right to vote. It will very much remain a members-owned club," he added.
"This is about ensuring we have a better qualified group of individuals in place as a board to run the club better on behalf of the members. It's very rare now you have multi-million pound businesses run by amateurs and we need individuals in place who have specific skills to add value to the club.
"I'm really pleased with the way the committee have reacted and I'm just now crossing my fingers that the members will see the benefit of this as well.
"It is a massive decision for the club and if the will of the members is that they are happy sitting where we are, that's democracy, but to move the club forward, we do need to go with this model, get those funds and crack on with ground development.
"If we don't get the approval, I'm not sure we can move the club forward in the way we want to."