The Board of Cricket Ireland has addressed its increasing home schedule by endorsing the development of a new permanent cricket stadium at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Dublin. The move is part of a wider strategy to ensure a network of international grounds are in place to deliver on the demands of future international and domestic first-class cricket in Ireland.
Warren Deutrom, Chief Executive of Cricket Ireland, said:
Cricket in Ireland is entering an exciting new phase, as we begin to understand more and more the implications and obligations of becoming an ICC Full Member.
We anticipate that the new Future Tours Programme [FTP] will be finalised by the ICC in April this year. It is likely to involve the senior men alone playing about 60 home matches over the next five seasons. That number doesn’t include women’s or youth international matches, men’s Inter-Provincial and women’s Super 3’s matches, major club finals or any future fixtures/competitions we might develop or host.
What has become abundantly clear to the Board is that this dramatic increase in our home schedule means that we will need to share the load beyond our four existing international-standard grounds around Ireland (Malahide, Clontarf, Stormont and Bready).
Cricket Ireland recently engaged an external expert to evaluate the existing option of redeveloping Malahide Cricket Ground or else pursuing the development of a new National Cricket Stadium at Abbotstown.
While recognising the short-term drawbacks of relocating to a site without the same quality of public transport links as at Malahide, the expert’s report ultimately found in favour of relocating the primary national stadium development in Dublin to the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus.
The Board’s considerations included:
- Malahide CC’s location within the sensitive heritage environment of Malahide Castle Demesne and its close proximity to residential housing – with its associated challenges around planning and development as well as expansion in future years;
- The need for a reasonable balance of international matches at Malahide CC with the right for club members to be able to use their venue for club matches and events;
- The National Sports Campus’ location on a green field site with space to plan and develop with fewer planning and zoning restrictions;
- The presence on the National Sports Campus of world-class sports, fitness and training facilities, that would become readily available for cricket players to utilise;
- The co-location of other CI infrastructure such as CI’s administrative HQ and (under-construction) outdoor training facility to realise operating efficiencies and cost savings.
It has been no secret that our initial thinking was based around a re-development and expansion of Malahide Cricket Club. However, the report informed the Board’s deliberations around a number of important issues around venue access and future-proofing.
When we selected Malahide as the location for our main stadium in Dublin a decade ago, Irish cricket was in a very different position with a much smaller fixture list. By achieving Test status and joining the FTP, we’ve had to ask ourselves the tough question of whether that decision is still fit-for-purpose.
Fundamentally, if we are to request substantial sums from Government, we need to be sure we can deliver on our programme of cricket matches at permanently-constructed venues which are commensurate with our new status.
It was a decision the Board did not take lightly. Every member of the Board acknowledged the emotional ties we have developed with Malahide – particularly after some of the big games of recent years – and the decision should not in any way be seen as a reflection on the club.
In fact, Malahide’s members and volunteers have been superb to deal with over many years, but our entry into the FTP will place requirements for availability on the club that will be unrealistic for members who will understandably want access to their main pitch to play their own fixtures.
We have kept Malahide Cricket Club informed of the process, but regardless of any future decision we are keen for Malahide to remain in use as an international ground for many years to come, and we look forward to continuing our close coordination with the Club and its members.
Today’s announcement is simply a statement of intent by the Board – to keep discussions transparent and open with our fans, players and stakeholders within the game.
Mr Deutrom noted that the next steps in this process involved engaging Government and Sport Ireland, as well as working with the Match Allocation Group on the allocation of major fixtures up to 2022 across various venues in the period following confirmation of the FTP.
The Board confirmed that it was giving in principle support to these steps, however any future decisions would be contingent upon resolving financial, legal and technical issues.