There was more glory for Nottinghamshire at Lord’s last night, as Steve Birks became the first groundsman to be recognised at the annual Business of Cricket Awards.
The Bernard Flack Memorial Trophy has been awarded to the outstanding head groundsman in county cricket since 1972, but this year for the first time the award was presented at the black-tie BOCAs ceremony which has been recognising non-playing excellence in the professional game since 2006.
In addition to winning that trophy for the quality of first-class pitches at Trent Bridge in the Specsavers County Championship and the Investec Test against South Africa, Birks was a joint winner of the award for best One-Day pitches – in the Royal London One-Day Cup and NatWest T20 Blast, also including white-ball internationals and tour matches – with Andy Ward of Leicestershire. Birks had previously won the four-day award in 2012, and this is the third time in seven years he has been recognised in the One-Day category, after he won it outright in 2011 and 2016.
His awards come at the end of a memorable season at Trent Bridge in which Notts Outlaws won the white-ball double by adding their first NatWest T20 Blast title to the Royal London One-Day Cup, and the county also secured promotion back to Division One of the Specsavers County Championship at the first attempt.
Gloucestershire and Sussex also received recognition for the quality of pitches at their outgrounds, with Christian Brain of Cheltenham College and Lee Farquhar of Arundel sharing that award.
There was further recognition for Nottinghamshire as they won two of the other BOCA categories – the Best Growth Strategy, and Welcome Families.
Yorkshire also won two awards, for the Best International Campaign and Volunteer Development, with the MCC receiving double recognition for Lord’s, for Warmest Welcome and Service Excellence.
Kent were recognised for the Best Commercial Partnership; Somerset for Fan Innovation; Durham for Inspiring Fan Loyalty; and Warwickshire for Unleashing Cricket, with their community programmes in and around Birmingham.
@kentcricket win the Commercial Partnership Award at The Business of Cricket Awards 2017 for the unification of grassroots and elite cricket in the county. Thanks to our staff, sponsors & partners for the support and all the communities, clubs & schools involved. pic.twitter.com/WDoZsWPywg— Kent Cricket 🏏 (@kentcricket) November 22, 2017
Derbyshire won the Best Domestic Campaign award for the fresh energy they brought to promoting their NatWest T20 Blast fixtures, and there was further recognition for the county as Chris Airey, their Media and Marketing Manager, won the Rising Star award, presented by ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison.
Gordon Hollins, the ECB’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “The BOCAs have become a highlight of the county calendar to celebrate the excellence and hard work of the hundreds of staff who play such a crucial part in delivering the success of our professional game.
“The groundstaff who put in so many hours to ensuring the quality of pitches for all our domestic competitions and internationals fit firmly into that category of unsung heroes. So it seemed entirely fitting to give them a moment in the limelight at the BOCAs for the first time.
“Steve Birks and Andy Ward were highly popular winners, and I think all the delegates who spent the day at Lord’s, attending the Business of Cricket Conference followed by the Awards, were delighted to recognise the contribution made by all the hard-working groundstaff around the circuit.
“Congratulations to them, and to all the other BOCA winners and nominees. The panel who judge these awards were especially impressed by the marketing campaigns developed by Yorkshire for their international fixtures at Headingley, and by Derbyshire for their NatWest T20 Blast campaigns.
“Both were successful in delivering significant increases in attendances, as we enjoyed another record-breaking summer in both the county and international game.
“There was also a notable double for the MCC in terms of welcoming supporters to Lord’s and providing an excellent overall experience.
“The First-Class Counties and the MCC show so much enterprise and innovation in developing stronger links with their existing fan-base, and reaching out to potential new supporters. The BOCAs allow us to celebrate that, and also to expose the counties to a range of speakers from different fields at our Business of Cricket Conference – and we’d like to thank Harry Hawkins from Two Circles, Ingrid Fernandes from Legoland, and the Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, for sharing their knowledge with us this year.”
Business of Cricket Awards
Best Campaign International - Yorkshire. (Also nominated - Surrey, Warwickshire)
Best Campaign Domestic – Derbyshire. (Also nominated - Yorkshire, Lancashire)
Warmest Welcome – MCC (Lord’s). (Also nominated - Surrey, Kent, Lancashire)
Service Excellence – MCC (Lord’s). (Also nominated - Glamorgan, Notts, Warwickshire)
Fan Innovation - Somerset. (Also nominated - Glamorgan, Yorkshire)
Growth Strategy – Nottinghamshire. (Also nominated - Somerset, Glamorgan)
Volunteer Development – Yorkshire. (Highly Commended – Sussex)
Commercial Partnership – Kent. (Also nominated - Lancashire, Warwickshire)
Welcome Families – Nottinghamshire. (Also nominated - Warwickshire, Surrey, Durham)
Inspiring Fan Loyalty – Durham. (Also nominated - Warwickshire, Somerset)
Unleashing Cricket – Warwickshire. (Also nominated - Essex, Lancashire, Glamorgan)
Rising Star - Chris Airey (Derbyshire). Runners-Up - Treve Whitford (Yorkshire), Martyn Bicknell (Glamorgan)
Groundsman of the Year Awards
Bernard Flack Memorial Trophy (first-class pitches) – Steve Birks (Nottinghamshire). Runners-Up – Lee Fortis (Surrey), Andy Mackay (Sussex).
Best One-Day Pitches – Steve Birks (Nottinghamshire) and Andy Ward (Leicestershire).
Best Outground Pitches – Lee Farquhar (Arundel, Sussex) and Christian Brain (Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire).