Worcestershire CCC staff and officials staged a second successful online Members Forum encompassing all aspects of the club.
Club Chairman Fanos Hira, Cricket Steering Group Chairman Paul Pridgeon, Company Secretary Sarah Gluyas, Head Coach Alex Gidman and Commercial Manager David Hoskins were all available to answer a total of 43 questions from members via Zoom online conferencing.
It was once again an effective way of communicating with and updating the membership during COVID-19 compared to the Members Forums traditionally held on the opening morning of home County Championship matches.
Here is a detailed synopsis of the Members Forum for anyone unable to obtain any of the Zoom online conferencing spaces available.
DAVID HOSKINS COMMERCIAL MANAGER
A re-recorded video of David Hoskins’ section, following problems on the Forum, is available to view here:
FANOS HIRA CLUB CHAIRMAN UPDATE
“I would like to address a couple of main areas of questioning and they relate to 1) will there be any cricket at Blackfinch New Road and, if so, what will the format be, and 2) will supporters be in our ground should cricket occur?
“With the first point, ultimately that is going to be up to the Government and public health initiatives to decide but what I would say is it is pretty clear to us all that matters appear, on the face of it, to be easing.
“Football is about to resume in the next couple of weeks and we now know about the international cricket schedule in July where it is pleasing that some of our players (Pat Brown and Moeen Ali) have been called up into those squads.
“It is fair to say we are very hopeful that cricket will be played this season, and it is obviously subject to change (and not determined yet), but we do hope red ball and T20 cricket will be played at our ground this season.
“We fed our desires into the ECB and things are working quite collaboratively amongst all chairmen which is good to see. We all want to see cricket played.
“There are logistical obstacles that we have to overcome but I do want to reassure you that we will be ready should we get the green light to play.
“In terms of the format, red ball cricket unsurprisingly will be truncated if it indeed occurs and it is unlikely you are going to see promotion and relegation but you will see us challenged possibly amongst regional groups to limit the amount of travelling that needs to occur.
“With respect to white ball cricket, with T20 we do aim again to be very, very competitive and go hard again should that competition happen.
“Many other clubs have conveyed that they will be ruling out overseas players. We haven’t arrived at that decision quite yet which hopefully gives you some indication as to our ambition in that tournament should it be permitted.
“Clearly there are obstacles but we haven’t ruled out overseas players at this stage.
“We are hopeful of cricket, we have high hopes for cricket and we have high ambitions as well.
“In terms of will there be supporters in our ground, if you had asked me this question a month or even a week ago, the default position would have been BCD (behind closed doors).
“I do think that is probably the most likely scenario but, if there is an easing (and that’s far from certain) and you have already heard other counties talking about this…..if there is a way we can have you in our ground, of course we will be delighted to host you.
“(If permitted) it is likely to be limited but I just want to reassure you as members and shareholders that priority will be given to those that have taken up the Exclusive 2020 Membership offer we launched today (Wednesday). If you choose to roll over your membership and spectators are permitted in the ground, it kind of reduces the chance of you being able to come.
“Hopefully that is indicating our commitment to you as members and shareholders.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to the employees at our ground that haven’t been furloughed. It is fair to say the conditions and the challenges have been huge for them.
“There have been anxieties, demands, and it has been pressured, but they have excelled and I would like to thank those employees on behalf of the board.
“These are difficult and challenging times but I am convinced we will get through this and we will come through this really strongly.
ALEX GIDMAN HEAD COACH UPDATE
“The players are okay, we are in constant communication and thankfully they are all dealing with this (current situation) pretty well.
“There are a few anxieties and concerns but I think that is pretty standard. They are not the only ones who would have those kind of emotions at the moment.
“Thank you for your concern and asking how the players are and that is one of the reasons why we did the Rapids Relay. I thought of that for a few reasons. One obviously to support an amazing charity (Acorn’s Children’s Hospice) which had been affected by COVID-19.
“I wanted to try and find a way of bringing the group together albeit virtually and we had a lot of fun doing that. It was a really great experience and a cheeky part of me wanted to see how fit they were as well so it was a bit of a triple edged sword.
“Thank you for your support and we managed to raise just over £17,500 which is quite amazing. When we set out, I thought if we got to £5,000 that would be an amazing achievement and to get to the figure we did is a huge thanks to everyone.
“As Fanos eluded to, the potential for cricket is looking okay which is a huge excitement to all of us concerned and from a cricketing point of view we are planning for all formats.
“We would be naïve to not plan for all eventualities and we’ve got a six week programme ready to roll out and put into place once we get the green light. We are hoping to get the players back in June and practicing sooner rather than later.
“There has been a huge amount of work done behind the scenes. Ben Davies (Head Of Sports Science And Medicine) has worked very closely with the ECB, identifying what we need in place, the structure, COVID-19 officers etc. We’ve got a really good system in place and we are very confident we will have a good and clean environment for the players to come back into along with the support staff and the rest of the guys who work at the club.
“We are looking forward to getting back and it is going to be a safe environment, which is paramount, for everyone concerned.
“We’ve had some questions about Jake Libby and what he brings to the team and first and foremost he is a really good lad who fits into the group really well. He is quite quiet but he is also very serious about his cricket. He works extremely hard and has got a steely approach which I really like.
“One of the things that stood out when I met and he expressed his desire to play for us, was that he wants to open the batting and be a top three batsmen at least. The way the game is going it is very hard to find guys that really want to do that.
“To have someone wanting to get stuck in at the top of the order in a really challenging part of the game was a huge strength and really excited me. He also has some experience of Division One and we need those sort of guys around us to help our younger players grow and evolve. He has brought a different aspect to the way we talk about batting.
“He has already been a good success and like everyone is gutted not to have the chance to start playing yet and prove how good he is.
“We’ve had a few questions about red ball cricket and one thing that is very important for you all to know is that I love red ball cricket personally. It is in my eyes still the pinnacle of our game.
“As long as I’m coach at Worcestershire, red ball cricket is a huge, huge part of our plans and what we want to try and do and how successful we want to be in that format of the game.
“That is the same for all formats. We don’t treat any format differently to any others. We’ve had some challenges in red ball cricket for the past four or five years. We’ve played some great cricket and some frustrating cricket and the players are fully aware of it.
“Certainly from my point of view, it is the pinnacle of our game and the most satisfying cricket to watch when we play well and are winning and is the most rewarding. The players are desperately keen to achieve in that format as well.
“At the moment they are extremely comfortable and confident playing white ball cricket. We need to get that confidence up in the players as quickly as possible so they feel the same confidence (in red ball cricket) because they are very capable players.
“I have a huge amount of trust and faith in them all to perform in all formats of the game. It is very hard to achieve and win competitions and Essex achieved something which I didn’t necessarily think was possible, to win the County Championship and the T20 in the same year. They have raised the bar and that is something we should be striving for and we certainly are.
“We changed the structure of our winter and went back in November and focused on red ball cricket. We needed to hit more balls, we needed to get the bowlers more robust – and the players loved it. They were really keen and ambitious to practice more and more and I’m so gutted for them they didn’t have the chance to put that hard work into practice. It would be great if they have a chance to give it a go this summer.”
PAUL PRIDGEON CRICKET STEERING GROUP CHAIRMAN AND CLUB VICE-CHAIRMAN
“I have been going to Blackfinch New Road every week to see how the ground is progressing after the floods and we are really pleased with the way the square has come back and, if we had a game tomorrow, we could get a high quality wicket out on the square. There will be good practice facilities available for if and when the boys can come back off furlough.
“I feel for Tim Packwood (Head Groundsman) because the weather elements have conspired against him. Once the floods came off the ground, he has gone on to do the job he needed to do, to scarify, to re-seed and to try and improve the quality of the outfield.
“What he desperately needed was rain to help along with the germination and the reason the outfield is not up to its usual standard is because he hasn’t been able to get enough water onto the ground.
“We have taken steps this week. It has been re-scarified, re-seeded, over-seeded, and hopefully the rain now will make a real difference and the germination process should come to fruition. If we are right in what the ECB-government are thinking, in that it will be August before cricket starts, he has got eight weeks to get that right – and I’m confident we can get that right.
“The other thing I wanted to talk about is that we have four players out of contract this year, all young players, and it is something we are all very concerned about because if you’ve got players going into their final year, you want them to be able to showcase their talents, to get a fair crack of the whip, to produce if they can get into the first team, and earn themselves a new contract.
“It is going to be difficult for them to do that. At best they are likely to get two months of cricket in two formats. The only encouragement I can offer them is that they approach it along the lines of I am going to showcase my skills, show what I can do, and I am going to earn a new contract. That is the mentality they have to have.
“It’s a question of sitting and waiting until we are all back together and we can have that discussion and see what the medical people think. It was a serious injury and we have to make sure we look after his long term welfare with that as well.
“It has been a frustrating thing for all of our players and even more frustrating for those four because they are looking to take their careers forward. We will be doing the best we can to give them opportunities.”
SARAH GLUYAS COMPANY SECRETARY
“The first question relates to car parking and access to on-site car parking is an issue for many members. We very much appreciate last season that there were some match-days where there were insufficient spaces for all of the members who had the car parking pass.
“This year we have sold 30 per cent less of those passes so we have already addressed this and it should not be an issue this summer.
“Another question relates to the impact on income streams of the postponement of The Hundred? We were hosting two of the women’s matches and the staging cost for those was going to be fully reimbursed by the ECB and we would take a percentage of the ticket revenues, tickets quite modestly priced at £8 for adult and £5 for juniors.
“Regarding a wider picture, the TV rights deal that the ECB has included The Hundred as a new competition. That TV rights is a large part of the ECB’s income and the income on that, with the disruption of the season and The Hundred being postponed, isn’t yet known as to how that will impact at the ECB itself from those revenues that’s what they distribute out to the first class counties and recreational clubs.
“For us at Worcestershire, that funding from the ECB is around half of our entire income so since lockdown our only significant income is what we are getting from the ECB. We are expecting clarity by the end of the month as to how much more income the ECB will provide to the first class counties. We are very hopeful they will be able to continue to fund us as we were expecting.
“One question asks if the ladies pavilion will be restored when it is safe and practical to do so after the winter floods. It is one of the great delights of Worcestershire CCC and thanks to the volunteers.
That building was at the heart of the severe flooding in February and it went right up to the first floor joists.
“We were arranging an assessment of potential damage just prior to the lockdown and fingers crossed it doesn’t look like there is anything structurally there (damaged) on that first floor. But there is a lot of remedial work to do on the ground floor and the areas under the water.
“It is located in such a vulnerable area for flooding, where the water is the deepest and it does seem likely the risk of extreme flooding could get worse with the climate change in the future. Future damage to that building may also become increasingly likely.
“It is something we are going to be looking at very carefully to see what advice we can get about that.
“It is such a delightful, traditional building and one area we have been exploring is the use of the building on non-match days for things like a small wedding function or a christening.
“Disabled access is problematic with the design and lay-out of that building. Before the pandemic, something we were looking at was the possibility of an extension to the Hick Pavilion that could go in that direction and whether that some link up might improve that disabled access via a bridge or walk-way.
“Other questions ask how can members best help the club to survive? The messages of support have been very heartening to the handful of staff working at Blackfinch New Road in challenging times and it embodies being a member of the club rather than a season ticket holder.
“We’ve had offers around fund raising ideas and when we know the financial impact as things start to work through, we will come back and take a look at those.
“Financially for us, keeping membership subscriptions within the club is really something that makes a big difference. I know there will be financial hardship cases where a membership refund is going to be appropriate.
“But helping us to keep that cash retained within the business is what helps to keep the lights on and to keep the doors open.
“One question asked about paid employees now running the Club Shop rather than volunteers from the Supporters’ Association? The Association have put a lot of time and hard work into operating the shop for which we thank them very much and is now returning back in-house.
“We can add some additional expertise to that, something that David Hoskins has a strong background in, and we can have a lot more variety of items for sale and have the shop open all the year around and not just on match-days.
“It is quite a step forward in making that available for a lot more prospective people. Already on-line we’ve despatched items to America and Australia. The initial interest has been really good, and we have a range of more traditional county cricket themes and lots of children’s pocket money type items for a T20 matchday experience.”