Bransgrove hails Rose Bowl progress
Rod Bransgrove believes the expansion of the Rose Bowl highlights Hampshire’s “big ambitions”.
The Hampshire chairman has overseen a remarkable rise in the off-field fortunes of the south coast county since he saved the club from insolvency in 2001.
And while matters on the pitch have also improved - Hampshire contested three of the last five Friends Provident Trophy finals and won twice - a first County Championship title since 1973 remains elusive, as does success in the 20-over game.
Kabir Ali, Neil McKenzie, Simon Jones, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq and Ajantha Mendis have been added to the squad this year in an attempt to land further trophies, while the Rose Bowl has undergone a major upgrade over the winter.
Capacity has been increased to 15,000 permanent seats, with an extra 10,000 temporary seats added for international games, and the golf course is being extended to 18 holes.
And while plans for a 175-room four-star hotel have had to be put on hold pending a judicial review, Bransgrove insists it is all systems go as the club continues to expand.
“There’s a lot going on here and it’s all a big symbol of big ambitions for Hampshire and the Rose Bowl,” Bransgrove told ecb.co.uk. “Obviously we’ll continue through to completion and I can’t wait for that day.”
“The new stand will be completed this year, although I can’t argue that they’re on schedule because they’re already a little late.
“We’ve realigned the programme now to make sure they're all complete in time for our first international match which is on June 2. Most people will forgive that week or two delay for the sheer scale of the new amenities that they’re going to have.
“I’d like to think it is (impressive in the current economic climate). At the end of the day we’re a service to business so we want to make sure that we give our customers the best experience we possibly can at the Rose Bowl.
"We are impatient to complete our work but, nonetheless, with a little bit of inconvenience in the short term we will be offering something superb.”
The Rose Bowl will host its first Test when England take on Sri Lanka next year, but Bransgrove believes success on the pitch is attainable before then.
“I think this is the deepest and fittest squad that we’ve ever had at the Rose Bowl,” he added. “They’re certainly up for it this season. They’re playing in three competitions and we’ll be flat out for all of them.
“We’re not favouring one over another. We see ourselves as having a squad that can cope with championship cricket and short-form cricket.
“We’ve a squad that’s deep enough now to perm any 11 from 16 players in each form of the game, so there will be no excuses really. We’re up for the fight.
“We’re going to go flat out for every trophy and we’ll review that on a game-by-game basis. We’re certainly not going to be leaving any trophy behind.”
It is not only the squad and ground which have changed at Hampshire over the winter; the team will be known as Hampshire Royals in limited-overs cricket in 2010 after joining the Royals 2020 franchise.
The link sees Hampshire, Rajasthan Royals, Cape Cobras and Trinidad & Tobago join forces - they will wear the same kit and share players and expertise, while the prospect of a tournament between the sides is very much on the cards.
Bransgrove believes other counties will be quick to follow Hampshire’s example.
“I’m aware already that most other counties have been over to the IPL schmoozing with clubs in order to form alliances or co-operation,” he added.
“I’m absolutely certain other clubs will be interested. There have been a number of first-class clubs that have asked me privately for more information about the structure and the way it works.
“It was a relatively short negotiation - only three or four months of intense negotiations. The idea was immediately appealing to me.
“It sits very comfortably with my philosophy, which is to become less and less dependant on the distribution of central funds and more dependant on self-generated income.
"Whether that’s from international matches or concerts or car parking or showing movies or the Royals alliance, those all sit very well with our business plan, so from that point of view it was a great idea.
“The more time I spend on it and the more time I spend in discussion with our other partners the more bound I am to the concept.
“In the short term the main gains will be greater awareness of the club, a greater following of the club on a worldwide basis, and sponsorship revenues. It also provides exchange opportunities for players."