The road to recovery 

September 1, 2018

Durham County Cricket Club chairman Sir Ian Botham tells North East Times why, following relegation and a 48-point deduction almost two years ago, stability both on-and-off the pitch is returning to the Emirates Riverside

You were named chairman of Durham CCC in Feb 2017. At that point, the club had been relegated from the First Division and hit by severe ECB sanctions. What made you take on such a challenging role?

Durham is a great club and they should be playing their cricket in the top flight. I felt like I could help them return to the First Division and once again make Durham successful. I am very happy with the direction we’re heading in. The Club has a passionate fan-base and an exceptional record of producing and developing players. There are exciting times ahead.

What were your goals/aspirations when you took on the role and how do you feel you’ve delivered against these over the past 18 months?

It was important that we initially attained some financial stability – something that has now been achieved – and we can now turn our attention to improving on the pitch.
The players we have brought in for this season and 2019 demonstrate our ambition, and the lads’ performance in this summer’s Vitality Blast shows our exciting progression.

How do you feel the club’s recovery is going? Is the club where you hoped it would be at this point?

It’s going very well. We’re financially in a good place and our T20 attendances have been the highest we’ve ever had at Emirates Riverside, demonstrating the passion for cricket in the North East.

We have been able to attract high-calibre international players to Chester-le-Street, and the decision to grow our family audience has been extremely successful. We’re delighted to see so many children enjoying our games and our Family Zone.

Despite its relegation, membership sales rose for the 2017 season. Has this ground swell of support continued into the new season?

Yes, we have had a large uplift in season tickets, junior memberships and individual ticket sales, and this year has seen our highest ever T20 crowds. Alongside the physical numbers, we’ve had an excellent turnout from families and received a lot of positive feedback on social media.

What impact did the ECB sanctions have on Durham CCC’s reputation on a national and international level? Has this reputation recovered?

I think most people sympathised with our situation, and the club became a lot of non-Durham fans’ second team.

The sanctions have cost us on the pitch in terms of the relegation and then losing players that we had developed.

But we’re now on the up and are already demonstrating what a great cricketing county we are.

Durham hosted a sell-out ODI against Australia in May. How important is international cricket to the future success of the club?

Very important. It’s essential that the North East is provided with international sport and our sell-out ODI fixture demonstrated the hunger for cricket in this area.

Financially, it’s also beneficial to the club and the region. More importantly, these are the fixtures that inspire youngsters to start playing cricket and gives them opportunities to watch their heroes at Emirates Riverside.

How likely is it that Durham will host international test cricket in the near future? What about an Ashes fixture?

There won’t be another Test match at Durham for the next five years, but they are not the be all and end all from a financial viewpoint. We have secured international cricket until 2024 at Durham, so the future is bright for cricket in the region.

What is your opinion about the 100-ball cricket format? Is it something that you’d like to see extended to the North East?

I’m very much looking forward to it.

Obviously, there are mixed opinions being formed about the competition, but people didn’t want T20 at first and it’s now very successful. We would be delighted to host a team at Durham or some games in the future.

Durham CCC