The Oval cricket group is planning a “big, bold and ambitious” £50 million redevelopment that will expand the capacity to 40,000 making it the biggest cricket ground in the country.
The Telegraph has revealed that the Bedser and Laker-Lock stand will be rebuilt from the current 25,500 capacity in time for the 2023 Ashes Test. This will make the Oval the biggest dedicated cricket ground in the world outside of India or Australia. Work is due to start in late 2019 after the 2019 World Cup and will allow the iconic ground to be ready for further test cricket but also the new Twenty20 league.
Club Chief Exec Richard Gould said: “Our business has taken off over the last five years and our reserves have quadrupled in size along with significantly higher profits. This has largely been driven through T20 cricket and an increase in our non-matchday business, but sales for international cricket also remain very strong. Most of our major games now sell out, either for county cricket or international cricket, and we need more seats to meet demand.”
Surrey have in recent years enjoyed unprecedented levels of ticket sales. The club have built up a huge database of 282,000 ticket buyers and over the next week or so expect to sell out home Natwest Blast Twenty20 games against Sussex and Middlesex. A capacity crowd filled the ground for Thursday’s Champions Trophy clash between India and Sri Lanka.
A new city-based eight-team Twenty20 tournament has been given the go-ahead to start in 2020, where teams will draft 15 players (including overseas) and are given £1.3m each per year. The English Cricket Board (ECB) has said the competition will give cricket the chance to be part of “mainstream conversation” and believes the tournament can make the sport “relevant to a whole new audience”.
Surrey Cricket Club Chairman Richard Thompson said: “The time is now right for cricket to think on a bigger scale. We have already received a positive response from early discussions with the ECB and our landlord, the Duchy of Cornwall. We will now work up more detailed proposals and financial models to share with our wider group of stakeholders.”
The club will be debt free by 2022, when they will have paid off loans incurred for the building of the OCS Stand in 2004. The new project will be funded through more borrowing but the club will also offer the ECB the option of financing it in return for the revenue from ticket sales from the extra seats.
Surrey’s 20-year staging agreement, which guarantees one Test match per year, runs out in 2022. With the Olympic Stadium a potential future cricket venue, and likely to host games at the 2019 World Cup, Surrey face competition for matches.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) want to retain its hold on two Tests per year when there are two touring teams in England to help pay for the rebuild of Lord’s. “It is essential [to have one Test],” said Thompson. “We believe London is the Test capital of the world. It could probably sell four Tests per year. It has only got stronger in the last few years. It is unthinkable to imagine we are not a Test venue and we are predicating this development on Test cricket as much as other formats of the game.”
The speed at which Surrey believe they can complete the work contrasts with the MCC, who told their members this week that the work to redevelop Lord’s would not be finished until 2032 at the earliest. The £189 million redevelopment of Lord’s will only lift capacity by 4,000 to 32,000 whereas the Oval will add 15,000 seats.
Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG) in Australia seats more than 100,000 spectators. Even Australia’s fifth largest cricket stadium, the Gabba in Brisbane, seats 42,000. There are 17 cricket grounds in India that hold more spectators than Lords.
DMZ thinks this is a fantastic idea from a world famous cricket club.
The development will push more money back into the English game as UK cricket stadiums will finally be able to compete with emerging IPL giants in stadium size and with the new revamped format. The Oval seems to continue to pull in fans, which means that this expansion should be covered by the growing levels of support.