Bid launched to bring Hampshire Cricket matches back to Portsmouth

United Services vs Sarisbury II at United Services Cricket Ground, Burnaby Road
United Services vs Sarisbury II at United Services Cricket Ground, Burnaby Road
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  • Council writes to Hampshire Cricket to bring two-time championship winning team back to city after 17-year absence
  • Club played over 350 matches at United Services Recreation Ground
  • Bid would see one exhibition game played at the ground
  • Cricket clubs back the bid but issue concern over pitch
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A BID has been launched to bring world-class county cricket back to Portsmouth.

Two-time county championship winners Hampshire County Cricket Club could return to play in the city again after a 17-year absence.

It would be really great for the city as we have a buzzing grassroots game here. This city deserves to have county level cricket for at least one exhibition game

Councillor Scott Harris, who wrote the letter to Hampshire Cricket

Scott Harris, chairman of the City of Portsmouth Sports Council and city councillor has written to Rod Bransgrove, the club’s chairman, to consider playing exhibition matches at United Services Recreation Ground in Burnaby Road.

More than 350 matches were played at the ground by the team from 1882 to 2000 before the team moved to its permanent home at the £20m Ageas Bowl in West End in 2001.

Cllr Harris said: ‘This is an idea that I would absolutely love to bring to Portsmouth. It would be really great for the city as we have a buzzing grassroots game here. This city deserves to have county level cricket for at least one exhibition game.

‘There would a real interest in it from clubs across the city and it could raise the profile of the sport in Portsmouth.’

Cllr Harris pointed to the example of Sussex Cricket, which plays exhibition games for fans at Arundel Castle each season.

The club have played at various locations across the county since its formation in 1863, such as at Southampton, Winchester and Alton.

Its last home game outside of the Ageas Bowl in Hampshire was at May’s Bounty in Basingstoke against Durham in 2010.

Joe Standen, captain of Hilsea Cricket Club – which have gone from forming as a club to building its own pavilion in the space of three years – praised the idea.

He said: ‘It would be absolutely brilliant to see Hampshire Cricket back in Portsmouth.

‘As a club, we try to go to the Ageas regularly so the idea of having the county back in the city would be a big boost.

‘It is Hampshire cricket, so surely the club should be playing at other grounds around the county.’

Alan Atkinson, secretary for United Services Cricket Club – which plays at the ground – said: ‘Cricketers in Portsmouth would love to be able to see Hampshire play in the city again. However, a fair bit of maintenance would need to take place on the ground to bring it up to scratch.’

A Hampshire Cricket spokesman said the club had yet to receive the letter but that it would be considered.

He said: ‘An application would be considered on the basis of the quality of the playing and spectator facilities, Hampshire Cricket League requirements, sponsorship and support options, and the costs attributed to the above.

‘These are the parameters by which we consider all applications and possibilities and no applicant would be treated differently.’

Councillor Linda Symes, cabinet member for sport on the city council said: ‘One game a year would add another dimension to the city and at this perfect location, the game could indeed sell out.

‘I’m sure it would be possible to make this happen.’