July 4th 2011 is the date set at the Court of Appeal in London to hear the appeal against Lancashire County Cricket Club’s ground re-development plans - and it is the most crucial date in the club’s 153-year history, says chief executive Jim Cumbes.
“It’s a real day of destiny,” he says. “The future prospects for the club will rest on the decision, make no mistake. We are confident of winning and bringing to an end a protracted legal process which has been draining the club financially and preventing us from transforming our ageing ground and facilities.”
The club is implementing its legal planning consent by moving ahead with the installation of four new 53m high floodlights, which will be completed by the International Twenty20 match with India in August. And Cumbes says that the full development programme which will see a transformed Old Trafford fit to host the 2013 Ashes can still be maintained.
The latest legal challenge to LCCC by Isle of Man-based billionaire Albert Gubay’s Derwent Holdings, owner of the nearby White City retail park, has now reached the Court of Appeal.
Says Mr Cumbes: “Mr Gubay’s own plan for a rival food store at White City has been rejected by the planning authority and a public inquiry. His latest challenge seems a pointless exercise, but it is creating huge uncertainty for us due to its financial implications.”
Mr Gubay has refused the club’s plea to back down. Mr Cumbes adds: “It is still not too late for Mr Gubay to drop this further legal challenge, and I urge him to in the interests of cricket and the whole sporting community of the Northwest.”
LCCC has received messages of support from all over the world and has welcomed a cricket fans’ Facebook page called ‘Drop It Gubay’ at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Drop-It-Gubay/103187879772386
The club’s most famous player of recent times, Andrew Flintoff, has described the Facebook page as “Genius!” on his Twitter feed and has urged his followers to support it.
Flintoff says: “I’ve started Tweeting about this case because all cricket fans should know that the redevelopment of Old Trafford is crucial to the future of the club, and for Ashes and Test cricket in the North West.
“Albert Gubay said on BBC TV that he was worth £1bn. Is he intent on squeezing the life out of Lancashire County Cricket Club? Is he trying to break the hearts of hundreds of thousands of sport lovers all over the world and cricket fans in the Northwest?”
The club’s plans include £32m of investment in new pitches, stands, state-of-the-art player and media facilities and an extension to the ground's indoor cricket school and public areas. Two new grandstands and a refurbished Pavilion will ensure a capacity of 15,000, capable of rising to 25,000 with temporary seating, and a screen showing action replays and the new floodlights. The development, which includes a Tesco food store on land nearby, will bring investment of at least £70m and over 500 jobs into parts of Trafford which suffer from low levels of economic activity and employment.