Cricket is a whole new ball game
Thursday, October 9, 2008 - 16:16
CRICKETTHE Island’s newest and grandest cricket ground is a quiet place in winter.
Without the sound of leather on willow Newclose County Cricket Ground is, for now, a redundant facility as planning regulations mean it can only be used for cricket-related activity.
But Newclose’s new manager, Mike Scott, has big ideas for the £1.7m ground and its clubhouse.
He is currently writing to other gold standard grounds to find out what functions and events they hold, in the hope the IW Council see the potential which lies in the building.
He said: “We had around 600 people through our doors across our three open weekends, even though no cricket was played because of the weather.
“We have already had several people ask about weddings and we have also been approached by the IW Island Games committee to ask if they can use the ground for archery competition in 2011.
“We want people coming here to have lunch, meetings, conferences and exhibitions but, at the moment, unless there is something cricket-related going on we cannot do anything.”
So Mike will probably have to wait until the new season starts before Newclose really springs into life.
His plan is to hold around five games a week at Newclose, including IW Cricket Board games from the under-tens age group up to the Academy side and the senior team.
Ventnor cricket club’s third team will play their home games there and, should Ventnor’s first team win their sixth successive title next season they, too, will call Newclose home.
And Mike’s big ambition is to make the IW senior side a competitive county in the minor leagues. With his track record he could well make it happen.
A rugby player for Northumberland under-21s, injury cut short his career. But Mike’s path back into the game he loved was extraordinary.
After being made redundant by his bank employer, Mike was invited by two of his rugby-playing friends who were part of the then amateur Saracens to a game up North.
On the train he met the club’s chairman of selectors, Bruce Millar, and assistant coach Mark Evans, who asked him if he would like to become the club’s administrative manager.
When the game went professional in 1995 he became the team manager, organising everything from travel to matches and contracts.
After ten years with the club he left, following Mark to Harlequins, where he became chief executive. At the time there was no academy, just seven players on the books and the club was losing £3m a year.
He helped build the squad by developing an academy and by the time he left at the end of last season, they were one of England’s top clubs.
He said: “After 18 years I had taken it as far as I could. I still love rugby, but I told director of rugby Dean Richards that I wanted to leave at the end of the season. Then the opportunity here came up.
“With Newclose I have a blank piece of paper, it is an excellent facility and it is a business to run. I have a passion for sport and here I have the opportunity to make something work.
“Things will build up here slowly and we want to be part of the fabric of the local community. We are not here to take games from clubs, we want to add to the fixture list and add value to the sport on the Island.”