A famous seaside site won’t host first-class cricket this summer and some people are devastated

The chairman of a cricket-loving volunteer group has described Glamorgan CC’s continued absence from Swansea’s main grounds as “heartbreaking”.

The county will be playing a fixture at The Gnoll, Neath this summer, but won’t stop on the seafront at St Helen’s like it used to – at least before the Covid pandemic.

John Williams, chairman of St Helen’s Balconiers, which has promoted and raised funds for Glamorgan since 1972, said: “I feel like I’ve been thrown out of my own home and powerless to do anything about it.”

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Announcing his 2022 match list late last week, Glamorgan’s head of operations Dan Cherry said: “Unfortunately we cannot play at St Helen’s this year as the facilities are no longer capable of hosting domestic cricket on the location support.”

A club spokesman said that no professional cricket had been played on the Swansea Council-owned ground since 2019 and that the club had serious concerns that the surface and outfield would not meet the required standards to host first-class cricket this year to organise. He also said the operational infrastructure was lacking.

The spokesman added that all provinces have until April next year to meet new minimum standards. He said Glamorgan CC had been in contact with the council about St Helen’s and had a good relationship with it and with St Helen’s Balconiers. The county, he added, wanted to develop a center of expertise in West Wales to help the game grow.

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For Mr. Williams and the Balconiers, the announcement of the match was another blow.

Mr Williams said he felt more than a century of cricket heritage in St Helen’s had not been respected.

“It’s so sad — heartbreaking,” he said.

Mr Williams, from Sketty, said the Baloniers had raised £450,000 for Glamorgan over the past 12 years, and had organized an annual awards ceremony since 1973 at no cost to the county.

Of St Helen’s himself, he said: “There is no ground in the country where you can watch cricket and have a view of a bay like Swansea. Ask all the counties – they all want to come to St Helen’s.”

Glamorgan hosts Hampshire in 2018, with Brynmill in the background

Applause at St Helen’s as visiting captain and Ashes winner Paul Collingwood returns to the pavilion after scoring 127 for Durham against Glamorgan in 2017

The roll call of famous cricket and rugby players who have graced St Helen’s is long.

Australians Sir Don Bradman, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Bill Lawry and most recently Glenn McGrath all donned their white pants there, as did West Indies maestro Sir Garfield Sobers – who made first-class cricket history by skipping six sixes in one in 1968 – and Sir Clive Lloyd.

Mr Williams said the Swansea area had been “a nursery” for Glamorgan, where the likes of Alan Jones, Robert Croft, David Hemp and the late Don Shepherd were raised.

Another Glamorgan fan said the “demise” of St Helen’s was very sad for the many cricket supporters in West Wales.

The man, who will not be named, said: “Over the past few years, Glamorgan’s visits to St Helen’s have been limited to a solitary four-day game, but nevertheless the pitches have produced fine matches acclaimed by the ECB. (England and Wales Cricket Board).”

He felt the elevation of The Gnoll over St Helen’s was a “final humiliation for Swansea”.

An advertisement for the 1948 Glamorgan vs Australia cricket match at St Helen’s

Swansea Council said the outfield and wicket at St Helen’s would undergo their usual council maintenance regime in preparation for the 2022 cricket season, and expected Swansea CC to play there as they did last season.

“We have held St Helen’s to first-class cricket standards for many years, although we are aware of new ECB guidelines due to be released shortly,” said a council spokesman.

The authority, he said, was committed to facilitating the development and delivery of sport in Swansea at the community, student and elite levels.

The spokesperson added: “We continue to have a strong partnership with the club and Balconiers. We look forward to continuing this in the future.”

Opposition leader, Cllr Chris Holley, urged council leader Cllr Rob Stewart to commit to improving the playing surface of St Helen’s.

Cllr Holley said the absence of first-class cricket there this summer was very sad news.

He said: “The municipality has built some new attractions in the city center, which everyone hopes will work well, but even with the free use of sports facilities, which is a temporary measure, we are losing a wonderful attraction that has given a lot of pleasure.” … to the people of Swansea and West Wales.”

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