Lancashire build for future
Lancashire hope to deliver a multi-million pound stadium at Old Trafford which will be the envy of the rest of English cricket.
Lancashire, who had been considering possible moves away from the ground they have inhabited for more than 100 years, have announced their commitment to staying put.
The decision follows the news Trafford Borough Council intend to vacate their town hall building, adjacent to the cricket ground.
Michael Cairns, chairman of Lancashire’s business committee, believes he and his colleagues must make the most of the situation which has arisen.
“There is the opportunity for a venture here, in partnership with Trafford, which is much better than anything earlier envisaged,” he said.
Possibilities of moving to east Manchester or Wigan, therefore, appear to have receded irrevocably thanks to the bigger and better plans now in the offing.
The project, expected to cost in the region of £20million, is still subject to ratification by the council.
Yet Cairns would love to be able to complete in time for the Ashes, though Lancashire will not be involved after Old Trafford was overlooked for a Test in 2009.
"It would be nice to finish it around then,” he said. “We want to be the headquarters of cricket outside Lord’s.”
A clue to the ambitious nature of the plans lies in the fact at present a busy road splits the cricket ground and the town hall.
Back on the established site, the redevelopment could result in a drastic change to the ground’s geography.
“It is not definitely going to happen, but we will be looking into putting the pavilion behind the bowler,” said Cairns.
Such radical re-positioning is bound to divide opinion. But for club chairman Jack Simmons, for the moment there is relief and elation that two and a half years of uncertainty about the future of Old Trafford appear to be over.
“I was highly delighted that you had Wigan who want you, city of Manchester who want you and Trafford who want you,” he reflected.
In the end, though, the outcome has been very much to his liking.
“I played here in 1954 with Lancashire schoolboys, so to think of leaving wasn’t good,” he added.
“But we had to be very aware of setting personal feelings aside to make sure we do the best for Lancashire for the next 100 years.
“It meant for a time we had to put that passion and tradition to the back of the mind.”
That was until discussions with Trafford Council pointed to an irresistible vision of the future.
“The strength of what is suggested in partnership with Trafford is outweighing all the others,” said the chairman.
“No one is more pleased to be staying here than me. Today’s news is fabulous.”
One person who could dispute that proud claim is Lancashire’s England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff - a fact acknowledged by Simmons.
“I know someone else who is delighted - and that is ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. He really wanted to stay here,” Simmons confirmed.
It was Cairns, though - Simmons’ former Lancashire 2nd XI team-mate - who came in for the chairman’s most glowing praise for the part he has played for his county.
“He lives in Surrey and drives four and a half hours up and back, sometimes in one day.
“He has done a tremendous job for us; he is chairman of the business committee, and the last two years are the best we have ever had,” said Simmons.
Cairns himself, careful to thank all those who have helped to explore all possibilities for Lancashire’s future, has no doubts about the way forward.
“This is a stunning opportunity for us to get it right,” he said.
“It represents a full commitment by both parties to produce an arena of outstanding quality.
“East Manchester and Wigan have both been immensely patient with us. But we believe with what we have here and with the help of Trafford, this is best for our future.”