Gloucestershire County Cricket Club is considering relocating from Bristol to a more environmentally sustainable location.
The county of Gloucestershire has plans to construct the most “environmentally friendly” cricket stadium in the world and potentially house one of the new teams for the Hundred by selling their current home at Nevil Road, a site that has been used since the era of WG Grace.
During a series of discussions with members of the club, Will Brown, the CEO, shared his plans for a potential 20,000-seat facility in an interview with the Guardian. This venue would help reduce the club’s dependence on funding from the ECB, which has resulted in financial losses in recent years.
During the initial phase of development, the proposal entails profiting from the County Ground, which has been the beloved location for the club since 1889. However, with Bristol being a rapidly expanding city, the ground is considered prime real estate. The plan involves constructing a new facility on a greenfield site in south Gloucestershire, which will incorporate a hotel, retail stores, and year-round amenities.
In addition to the possibility of hosting games for the 2030 men’s T20 World Cup, which will take place in England, Scotland, and Ireland, a region that has faced challenges with rain and drainage during its last four men’s ODIs is aiming to secure and potentially expand its future allocation of international matches.
Brown stated that the historical significance and legacy of Nevil Road should not be overlooked, but due to its nature as a classic sports car, a larger family vehicle may be necessary in the future. While they have not outgrown it currently, they are starting to consider the possibility. In order to ensure financial stability, they are looking into diversifying their sources of income.
The reliance on ECB is much higher for non-Hundred venues and only around 85% of the ECB funding is tied to inflation. In actual value, it will be approximately £750,000 less in 2024 compared to 2020.
The ECB is not to blame, but it suggests that we should actively take charge of our fate instead of relying on others to come up with a solution.
The club hopes to resolve their non-Hundred status well before any potential changes, as they are likely to aggressively pursue a franchise if the ECB increases the tournament to 10 teams starting in 2025. Somerset and Durham are both vying for a spot in their respective regions.
According to Brown, Bristol and the south-west have been negatively affected by not having a direct connection to the Hundred. We maintain our belief that Bristol and Nevil Road meet the criteria that the ECB deemed necessary at the time and continue to hold importance.
“We aim to provide exceptional service at Nevil Road currently and in the future, as it is a rapidly expanding city that caters to a diverse population and attracts young families outside of London.”
Relocating from Bristol to a potential location near the M4 could potentially impact the accessibility of the club. However, Brown anticipates that the city’s overall growth and development, along with improvements to its infrastructure, will ultimately transform it into an urban venue.
The club, as a signatory to the United Nations’ Sports for Climate Action Framework and its commitment to achieve net zero by 2040, has been at the forefront of implementing green initiatives in English cricket. As they move forward with building a new venue, the club is committed to making environmental concerns a top priority.
According to Brown, addressing climate change is the most pressing concern. The progress we have made so far is something we are extremely proud of, and achieving net zero would be a huge accomplishment. Our goal is not just to meet requirements, but to surpass them and create the most environmentally friendly cricket ground in the world. We cannot expect future generations to be satisfied with our mere attempts.
While leaving the County Ground would be an emotional wrench – and not a given, with the executive still needing to firm up the plan – Brown insists the club’s history will be weaved into any new venue. And though the idea predates last year’s £570,000 loss and the washed-out ODI against Ireland in September that highlighted the ground’s shortcomings, both have sharpened the resolve.
Brown stated that the ODI against Ireland was crucial, as it was played on the last Tuesday of September against lower-ranked opponents. He mentioned that if they had faced New Zealand two weeks earlier, the revenue difference could have been around £400,000. He also noted that their major source of income is still from one England match each summer.
“We need to minimize our reliance on a single day in order to reduce risk. Additionally, we aim to add more men’s and women’s international events, as well as the Hundred (or any future competition), to our schedule.”