Liverpool CC cricket chairman Jeremy Clein says Lancashire’s decision to reject Aigburth this year is a “kick in the teeth”.
In the county season schedules, to be released on Thursday, the Red Rose and NW Thunder will visit Southport, Blackpool, Sedbergh and Sale, allowing Emirates Old Trafford to play host to international cricket and 100-ball cricket – not to mention of money spin concerts by The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Harry Styles.
But one direction they won’t go is to the second-largest city in the county’s catchment area; to the scene of such happy memories as 2011’s title-winning season and last year’s one-wicket nail-biter against Hampshire; described to the club by former cricket director Paul Allott as “our second ground” in 2020.
The province says the chosen outdoor areas showed impressive vision and ambition and deserved the right to host competitions. But Clein fears the announcement could spell the end of a long and fruitful relationship.
“After what we’ve done for Lancashire over the past two or three years, we were told that this year they would only consider using us by bidding on games,” he said.
“I was a little offended by that.
“They’ve played here for the last three years – three four-day games and two T20 games – and we had to prove to them that we were capable of hosting games.
“The only reason Lancashire has to play outside is because they host multimillion-pound concerts.”
A Lancashire spokesperson made it clear that these “bids” from clubs did not involve any financial element – rather, it gave the venues “a chance to show their facilities, vision and values”.
They added: “Lancashire Cricket invited Liverpool CC to be part of this process as they are an important venue for us; but unfortunately the opportunity was turned down.”
The county’s announcement last month of plans to build a massive training facility and grounds in Farington, near Preston, means the days of using club grounds could be coming to an end.
For Liverpool, the end of the game could have come even earlier after what appears to be a sudden and bitter break in relations.
Clein said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if they never play at Liverpool again.”
While Lancashire did not seek money offers from clubs to host matches – as was common in the old days of the three-day single division County Championship – Clein still believes financial considerations played a part in the decision.
He said: “Over the past three or four years, we have made an effort to accommodate them at short notice. Now, the first opportunity they’ve had to use elsewhere, they’ve used it elsewhere.
“It leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.
“Looks like they’re basically looking for the best financial deal for years to come until they move to the new premises — then they don’t need the outgrounds, and it’ll be back to the old days where you’ve got to.” they pay a lot of money to come and play with you.
“It’s a kick in the teeth for sports fans and cricket fans in Liverpool.”
A consolation to Mr Clein and his fellow volunteers is that they can keep their club all summer long.
“It’s a lot of work,” he added. “As nice as it is to see Lancashire play there, it’s a big hassle for us.
“We have 22 teams playing outside the club this year – if Lancashire plays here we won’t be able to use the ground for two weeks. So from that point of view it’s a logistical nightmare.
“For once this year we can really take care of our 22 teams. So from that point of view, it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Lancashire’s statement read: “The club were very impressed with the improvements and ambition shown by Southport & Birkdale CC and Blackpool CC in particular, and Lancashire Cricket felt these grounds deserved a chance to host first team matches in 2022. alongside Sedbergh School following the successful hosting of matches there in recent years and the club’s links with Cumbria.
“The club have been extremely impressed with the venues that have been involved in the process from the start, and Lancashire Cricket will be working closely with them over the coming months to ensure the best preparation for hosting first-class cricket. The selected venues showed a strong desire, enthusiasm and will to work with the club.
“We want to keep communication with Liverpool CC open and appreciate their efforts and accommodation in hosting Lancashire matches over the years, and remain committed to working with them again in the future.
“While outdoor areas are very important to Lancashire Cricket, the club also understands the wishes of its members and supporters to play as much cricket as possible at Emirates Old Trafford throughout the season.”