We recently invited Somerset Members and supporters to put their questions to our CEO Guy Lavender.
With the new season now just around the corner, Guy was keen to hear from anyone with queries ahead of the new campaign. Here is part one of Guy Answers!
Guy received a number of questions regarding the structure of domestic cricket following the recent announcement that two teams would be relegated from the first division of the Specsavers County Championship with only one team being promoted.
In response Guy said: “This is an issue that needs a much longer answer than can be provided in a few short words, but let me briefly give you the Club’s perspective. Firstly, it is abundantly clear that a reduction in County Championship cricket will be disappointing to many Members, reflecting the interest and appetite for the four-day game within the Club. The reality is that the necessity for a change to the domestic programme is compelling when you consider the financial pressures faced by the Counties and the opportunity to deliver a season that has better balance. Sadly, our experiences as a successful Club are not matched by all and whilst we have to take a primary view of what is in the best interests of Somerset, we also have to keep an eye on what is in the best interests of the game more broadly. In turn, the new structure certainly allows for more time to focus on specific competitions and the return of the NatWest T20 Blast tournament played in a shorter window in the height of the summer is most welcome.
“I think that the loss of a four-day match will provide better time for preparation and avoid the ludicrous situation of players having to continually lurch between one format and another. The result of this should be an improvement in the quality and performance of four-day sides across the Country. A view which is certainly supported by Andrew Strauss.
“We were disappointed not to see the implementation of a Divisional T20 tournament for 2017. We remain clearly of the view that smaller successful Counties must have the opportunity to compete as Counties in the premier T20 competition and merit based divisions would have been a very positive step towards a premier league which would really take the format forward.”
Guy also received questions that were not focused on the domestic structure. Brian Portch asked: Last season I found the two Q&A sessions with Members after close of play to be most interesting. They allowed a frank exchange of views between Members, yourself & the Director of Cricket. Are there plans to continue these Q&A sessions this season?
Guy Lavender: “Yes, we will schedule three Q&A sessions during the course of the season in the same format as last year which we felt worked extremely well. It is important that we, as a Members’ Club, listen to what our Members have to say.”
Vernon Lloyd emailed in with the following: I am aware that we have new drainage systems installed on the ground. A few years ago we went through a complete season with ruts in the outfield which I found embarrassing. Is there any chance this is going to happen again?
Guy Lavender: “There is always some risk when you undertake major work on the ground. Simon Lee, our Head Groundsman is happy with where we are at the moment and we have asked for a later start to our first Specsavers County Championship home fixture in order to provide as much time as we can for the ground to recover. We need to keep our fingers crossed for some warmer weather in the weeks ahead but at this stage we are not overly concerned about the quality of the pitch for the forthcoming season.”
Roy Armstrong asked: Can Somerset win any trophies this season?
Guy Lavender: “Absolutely. I think we have a stronger squad this year and there is absolutely no reason why we cannot be highly competitive in all formats.”
A. Thomas asked: Are there any changes to the playing rules apart from the toss in County Championship matches?
Guy Lavender: “There are a few minor changes but nothing substantive. I think the change to the toss this season is an interesting one and it will be intriguing to see if it alters the pitch preparation at grounds around the country.”
Richard Bond asked: Why have we not signed a new fast bowler?
Guy Lavender: “The balance and composition of the squad is Matt Maynard’s domain and I know all of our Members and supporters quite rightly have their own views and strong opinions on what is required. My own perspective is that we have some phenomenal fast bowling talent in our squad and we are well served in that department.”
David Harrison said: Teams that win Championships have results pitches. Are we going to have a ‘results pitch’ and how will this square with the visiting team deemed to have won the toss?
Guy Lavender: “I think the concept that we don’t have a result pitch at Taunton is misplaced. Take a look at the results stats for the last few seasons and there is no doubt that we are seeing more results at the Cooper Associates County Ground than in the past. From my perspective it is fundamentally important that we have pitches that offer something to both batter and bowler. We won the award for the best one-day pitches for the season past and were runners up in the four-day pitch competition, so we are clearly going in the right direction and both Matt Maynard and Simon Lee have a core focus on ensuring that we can achieve the results we need at our home ground over the season ahead.”
Roger Franklin from Dorset emailed in with a question regarding the cost of Membership for people who live outside of the County.
Guy Lavender: “Somerset is exceptionally lucky to have Members who travel from across the region to attend matches. We do not believe that reduced Membership based on geography is fair, sensible or can be applied consistently, so we intend to stay with the current Membership structure. We did launch Associate Membership last season to cater for those that live further afield to maintain their interests and association of the Club and that is proving to be very popular.”
David Shearn emailed in expressing his disappointment at the lack of a regular fixture in Bath.
Guy Lavender: “We are well aware of the necessity to engage supporters across the region and the loss of a regular fixture at Bath is disappointing. The reality is that any external venue must be capable of meeting the stringent demands of professional cricket as well as being financially viable. If we can achieve those criteria we will always seek to take cricket further afield. Sadly that is not the case at present. It is worth noting that our 2nd XI is playing a one-day match and a three-day match at Bath Cricket Club against Surrey commencing on 25th July, which we see as a positive step for the season ahead.”
Graham Mallaband raised concerns about car parking near the Cooper Associates County Ground.
Guy Lavender: “Parking is a critical issue for the Club but not one that is within our control. The situation inside the ground will be slightly better with the completion of the Somerset Pavilion but clearly that is incapable of meeting demand. In the short term, we envisage parking to be available for major matches on the old cattle market for the season ahead and we are exploring a number of options with Taunton Deane Borough Council for the future. These include; long stay parking on the Firepool development, a drop off and pick up lane within the Firepool site, increased park and ride provision to meet all match day timings or the delivery of those services ourselves plus the purchase of dedicated spaces in town centre parking facilities. We understand the necessity to ensure we have convenient parking provision available and will do all we can to achieve that in the years ahead.”
Part two of Guy Answers will be published on this website later in the week.