Too many sixes: St Helen’s boundary would need to be raised for first-class cricket to return to Swansea
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
The boundary height at one end of St Helen’s rugby and cricket ground would have to be raised for first-class cricket to return to Swansea’s famous seaside ground, a senior councillor has said.
A total of 35 sixes were struck the last time a one-day match was held there, in 2017, many of which were deposited onto Mumbles Road. Cllr Robert Francis-Davies said these blows presented “some near misses for the adjacent highways”.
The cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism was responding in writing to a question from four councillors, whose Uplands ward incorporates St Helen’s, about what the council was doing to secure the reinstatement of first-class cricket in Swansea for 2023.
The last first-class match held there was in 2019 – and this summer Glamorgan will play at The Gnoll, Neath, on August 17 and August 19, but not at St Helen’s.
List of work
Cllr Francis-Davies’s list of what work would be required to meet new England and Wales Cricket Board regulations covered toilet provision, disabled access facilities and viewing platforms, a diverse food and drink offer, family facilities, multi-faith quiet space, umpire and staff changing and dining facilities, medical facilities, and control room and security upgrades.
He said there would be a need for the council to dig up and re-lay three pitches on the square to maintain adequate standards, as well as address the low boundary at the Mumbles Road end.
“In view of the scale of improvements needed, the stakeholders have had to weigh up the cost of delivering these against the benefits to be gained, given first-class cricket only takes place for around four or five days a year,” said his response.
“Alternatives have been explored include prioritising some criteria over others, with gaps addressed by temporary infrastructure, but these also proved not to be cost-effective.”
He added that “dwindling” spectator numbers and sales were also a consideration.
Cllr Francis-Davies said he understood that Glamorgan intended to set up a centre of excellence in West Wales, and that the council and Swansea University were involved in discussions to explore this as part of a wider plan for top-class sports facilities in the Swansea Bay area.
He added: “Whilst this means there is no return planned for the immediate future, we are not ruling out a return of first-class cricket to Swansea in future.”
A devoted cricket supporter and Glamorgan fundraiser from Swansea, John Williams, lamented the continued absence of the Welsh county from St Helen’s when the 2022 fixtures were announced in January.
“I feel as if I have been thrown out of my own home and been powerless to do anything about it,” said Mr Williams, chairman of St Helen’s Balconiers.
Another supporter said he felt the elevation of The Gnoll over St Helen’s was a “final humiliation for Swansea”.
Addressing supporters’ disappointment at the time, a Glamorgan spokesman said it had significant concerns that the surface and outfield at St Helen’s would not meet the required standards to host first-class cricket. He also said operational infrastructure was lacking.
The spokesman added that all counties had been given until April next year to meet new minimum standards. He said Glamorgan had been in touch with the council about St Helen’s and had a good relationship with it and with St Helen’s Balconiers. The county side, he added, wanted to develop a centre of excellence in West Wales to grow the game.
The Royal London One-Day Cup match which rained sixes in 2017 ended in victory for Glamorgan, whose score of 356 for 7 was too much for visiting Kent, despite 10 maximums coming from the bat of visiting all-rounder Darren Stevens in a brutal 147 not out.
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