Headingley joins top table of world cricket as England host Pakistan

YORKSHIRE are relishing the opportunity to show off their new-look headquarters as Emerald Headingley prepares to join the party of English cricket’s biggest summer.

Saturday, 18th May 2019, 8:15 am
Mark Arthur, pictured during the construction of the new stand Headingley. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The ground tomorrow stages the fifth and final one-day international between England and Pakistan, the first of 10 days’ international cricket in Leeds this season.

Headingley also stages four matches in the 50-over World Cup – including England versus Sri Lanka on June 21 – and the third of five Ashes Tests against Australia in August.

Tomorrow will be the first time that the new £34m main Emerald Stand is open to spectators, providing 4,400 seats in an expected 18,000 crowd.

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Top view: Looking out from the new stand at Headingley stadium.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be able to show off the new stand,” said Mark Arthur, the Yorkshire chief executive. “For people who haven’t seen it, I hope they’re very pleased with what we’ve created; an awful lot of effort has gone in by an awful lot of people.

“I think it will showcase Emerald Headingley in a completely different light – not only locally, but all around the cricketing world.

“I have to pinch myself, to be honest, that we’ve gone and got it done. We’ve got it done on time, on budget, and there’s nothing about it that I would change.

“Sometimes with a new build you think, ‘Gosh, should we have done this, should we have done that?’, but the view from every level is absolutely fantastic.

Mark Arthur, pictured with Leeds City Council leader Cllr Judith Blake. Picture Tony Johnson.

“It’s closer to the boundary edge than the Carnegie Pavilion, which is set back a lot more; you’re almost sitting on the umpire’s shoulder. That’s how good a view the spectators get.”

Yorkshire had to build the stand to bring Headingley into line with ground capacity requirements amid increasing competition to stage international games.

With that in mind, Arthur is keen that Yorkshire present the venue in the best possible way in this season of seasons, and he is confident that the club can attract more high-profile international fixtures going forward.

“It’s essential that we show the ground in a good light in what promises to be a fantastic summer of international cricket,” he said. “There’s so much competition for international games these days and we certainly can’t afford to rest on our laurels.

“For a number of years now, we haven’t been at the top table when it comes to the allocation of international matches but, next time, I’d like to think that our schedule from 2025 going forward is better than what we’ve got from 2020 to 2024.

“We’ve always had the history and tradition that goes with hosting international cricket here since 1899, but now we’ve got a cricket ground that reflects Yorkshire’s position as one of the best cricket clubs in the world, and we need to maximise the opportunities that this incredible summer brings and keep moving forward.”

Although the new stand was always “the big one” from Arthur’s perspective, there are other ground improvements that he wants to undertake.

He wants to enlarge the players’ dressing rooms, which are fit for purpose for county cricket but no longer ideal for international cricket, given the vast entourage of backroom staff that accompany Team England, a problem that affects other grounds, too.

Arthur also wants to move the television broadcast compound from Car Park A behind the East Stand down to Car Park F at the bottom of St Michael’s Lane, thus creating more space for fans inside the ground.

But it does not stop there.

“One other project that I’d like to do over the next few years is put padded seats all around the ground,” he added.

“The new stand has got padded seats, and I’m also in favour of white seats rather than the blue seats that we’ve got in places at the moment.

“The padded seats cost about £60 each, so it’s something we’ll have to look hard at in terms of cost, but I’d like to think that over the next five years we will start off with the East Stand and the North-East Stand and take it from there.

“I think white is a traditional colour and will, hopefully, make the ground look even better than it currently is.

“We’ve got quite a big shopping list because we want to make Emerald Headingley a very special cricket ground. But we don’t want to get into more debt chasing some sort of fool’s dream.

“The big thing was always building the stand and we’ve done that now. I think that people are going to like what they see.”