New Chief Executive Daniel Gidney recently joined the Club from the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Here, in his first interview, Daniel talks about the legacy he has inherited from outgoing Chief Executive Jim Cumbes and reveals his own vision for the future of Lancashire County Cricket Club and Old Trafford.
Welcome to Lancashire County Cricket Club, Daniel. You must be delighted to be joining at such an exciting time for the Club?
DG: I am absolutely delighted to be joining Lancashire at what is a pivotal moment in their rich history. A £32m redevelopment of the ground with future development potential, it’s unusual to get that blend of a successful Sporting Club with such impressive heritage coupled with amazing venue facilities in such an iconic location.
You were previously in charge at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. How has your experience there prepared you for your role at Old Trafford?
DG: I had six wonderful years at the Ricoh that was just a year old when I joined the team as CEO there. So, on the one hand a different challenge as the venue had no history or heritage at all and with a football club as an operating tenant. However, 80% of the venue’s revenues were derived from match day when I arrived. When I left, match day revenues were only 20% as we built a very strong venue revenue base (non match day related) from scratch up to well over £10m.
You will be taking over from Jim Cumbes who has been at the Club for a very long time. Jim has left a legacy behind which you must be champing at the bit to take to the next level?
DG: Jim is a Lancashire legend, and the Club and the County owe him a huge debt of gratitude not just for his fabulous service both as a player, senior manager and the Chief Exec but also for him driving through the development and pulling the Club through the dark days of the infamous court battles. His legacy provides a strong platform for the Club to grow and expand and yes, I am excited about what we can achieve here. I want to build on the foundations already laid down to create a large, strong and diverse sports and leisure business which will underpin Lancashire County Cricket Club for the next 150 years.
You have already been in place for a number of weeks, what are your thoughts on the Club?
DG: The welcome and friendliness have been second to none and not something, to be fair, that I have been used to coming from a football environment. The Club has a real homely feel about it. I want to harness that spirit and positive attitude and ensure that it embraces all areas of the business for all of our customers so that whenever anybody comes to Old Trafford they get a consistently warm welcome.
Once the redevelopment of Old Trafford is completed in spring 2013, we will have some of the best facilities in the country not only for sport but also for business opportunities. How important is non-match day income for a business like ours?
DG: As I have mentioned earlier, non match day is vital. Outside of sport you won’t find any businesses that have revenue only for 30 odd days a year but have costs for 365 days a year. You just have to look at the impact of no international cricket on the business over recent times to test that fragility. With The Point, the new Pavilion, and the Players and Media building providing exceptional conference, events and meeting space then Old Trafford as a venue is well set to grow significantly in this area to complement the Cricket side of the business. You could say that cricket is at our heart but business is on our mind.
What are the challenges for domestic cricket in the country over the next few years?
DG: I’m sure we could fill pages with this topic! Jim had some strong views on this subject and I am enjoying the ongpoing debate. I am not afraid to say that I bring a different set of eyes to this, a business view rather than a purist cricket view, although in reality both views should align if you get your fan engagement strategy right. Did I just use the word fan? I did. Do I actually believe that Members are fans? Of course I do, but they are much more than that. Our Members are our lifeblood, but ultimately they are Members because they love to watch Lancashire play cricket. I believe we need to engage with Members more specifically about what is important to them rather than what we simply think is important to them. Am I mad you ask? No not at all, but if I make this bargain with the Members that I will listen and engage from the first ball of the first over so to speak. The other side of that bargain is that there is an understanding of the commercial realities of first class cricket, revenues generated and costs incurred, so in other words don’t bowl me any googlies please!
On a serious note, we have to try to give our Members what they want, whilst at the same time trying to match the costs against the revenues. The first part of this process is honest and reasonable engagement of what actually really is important. I believe we, as an organisation, need to look long and hard at making the Membership feel incredibly valued. The second key issue is how we undertake the missionary work to attract new audiences to cricket (as long as they don’t sit in front of the pavilion!). Ten years or so ago with the advent of Twenty20 cricket, real strides were made in this area but in recent years less research has been undertaken outside of existing cricket watchers. We need to work harder at this. With Premier League football, theatres, cinemas etc all vying for that leisure pound we have to be creative, but I have no doubt that we can build our audience base. Just look at 100,000 Ashes tickets sold in rapid time! Those customers should be coming to watch Lancashire.
What is your own experience of cricket? Did you ever play the game?
DG: I actually started playing quite late. A medium pacer who loved and enjoyed the game but not particularly talented. I didn’t get many opportunities at School and started playing at College in Essex and for the local village at Great Leighs. In more recent years I played a few times for the Village 2nd team in Snitterfield near Stratford. I have played in a corporate charity game at Rugby School against a team including Graeme Hick and Jonathan Batty. I had my requisite 2 overs to bowl, skilfully avoided coming on until Hick was caught on the boundary and then bowled primarily at Jonathan Batty - who failed to score a boundary off me (which I am sure he is delighted about). I have also played in a charity game for Apollo Theatres against the Really Useful Theatre Company on the Nursery Ground at Edgbaston, but my abiding memory of that game was fielding near the entrance to the ground and having to cross the main road and fetch the ball from the thorn bushes in Canon Hill Park after the General Manager of the Alexandra Theatre’s very part time leg spin got smashed for six over the road three balls in a row.
Probably though, one of my strangest experiences was playing for my brother’s chambers against a neighbouring chambers because they were short. No I am not a lawyer, but they drafted me in anyway. I remember fielding at extra cover and seeing a guy in his early fifties stride to the crease, very confidently swing his bat around in a Botham-esque style. First ball he smashes on its way to the boundary and I leapt to my left trying just to stop the ball if I could. Amazingly the ball stuck in my left hand and this guy was out for a golden duck. But the catch was greeted with silence by the fielders as the batsman bashed his bat into the ground and then stormed back to the dressing room in frustration. It was only when he was out of eye and earshot that the smiles appeared. It turns out he was a very important high court judge that had driven up from London to Warwickshire just to play in this cricket match. Let’s hope I am never in court…
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh