PLANS to bring back first-class cricket to Portsmouth have received a boost.
The News can reveal that talks are set to take place between Hampshire Cricket and Portsmouth City Council about the team playing exhibition matches in the city after a 17-year absence.
The talks will take place this September and follow earlier ‘positive discussions’ between the parties after a councillor sent a letter to the club’s chairman, Rod Bransgrove, calling on him to consider the staging of matches at United Services Recreation Ground in Burnaby Road.
More than 350 matches were played at the ground by the two-time county championship-winning team from 1882 to 2000 before the club moved in to the Ageas Bowl in West End.
Councillor Scott Harris, Conservative city councillor and chairman of the City of Portsmouth Sports Council is the man behind the letter and is leading the bid.
He said: ‘It is really positive for me that the club are looking to talk about the feasibility of this happening.
It is really positive for me that the club are looking to talk about the feasibility of this happeningCouncillor Scott Harris
‘We have had positive discussions so far with them but with this meeting in place, we will hopefully be able to get them on board and make this happen.’
The club have played at various locations across the county since forming back in 1983 with May’s Bounty in Basingstoke last hosting the club at a location other than the Ageas Bowl back in 2010.
Concerns had been raised by city clubs regarding whether the pitch would be up to county-level standard and cllr Harris stated that the pitch would be a key part of the talks.
He said: ‘Understandably, the club want to talk about the pitch and I am sure if we look into the situation, we can work out a plan.’
Councillor Donna Jones, the authority’s leader, and councillor Linda Symes, the city’s culture boss will also be involved in the talks.
Since The News revealed the bid last week, cllr Harris says he has received plenty of positive feedback from the city’s cricketers excited about the club’s potential return.
He said: ‘This is a really big thing for cricket in the city.
‘I have had people approach me in pubs and tell me how great it would be to have them back here. They come and tell me their memories of the club and it’s amazing to hear.’
The city’s proposals for the club would be to see the team play at least one exhibition game at the ground – currently used by United Service Cricket Club.
Cllr Harris added that with the potential for more international games to be hosted at the Ageas, this could lead to Portsmouth being seen as a destination to stage matches.
Hampshire Cricket were unavailable for comment.