Exclusive: Deep Extra Cover speaks to Warwickshire’s Neil Snowball – Part Two

Exclusive: Deep Extra Cover speaks to Warwickshire’s Neil Snowball – Part Two

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Warwickshire Chief Executive Neil Snowball

Neil Snowball is Chief Executive, not just of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, but also of the Birmingham Bears and of Stadium Edgbaston.

He brings to these roles his extensive experience in other sports.

He was Head of Sports Operations at the 2012 Olympics and Chief Operating Officer for the organising committee of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

More recently, he has become a non-executive director of the company in charge of Birmingham’s bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Deep Extra Cover’s Terry Wright sat down for a chat with him. 

The captaincy: “Trott has been very proud to do it, unbelievably proud. “

Ian Bell started the season as captain of the Bears in all formats, but he lost his place in the T20 side. Then, as his own form slumped and the failures mounted in the four-day game, he resigned the captaincy. New Zealander Grant Elliott took over in the T20 Blast and Jonathan Trott led the team in the last few Championship matches.

What will happen next year?

“We know that Grant will be coming back and captaining in the T20. We would expect him to carry on the great work that he did at the end of the season.

“It’s been a really tough year for Ian Bell. He took over the captaincy, because we asked him to, at a time when he was very publicly talking about wanting to get back in the England side. With the benefit of hindsight, maybe that was a lot to ask of him, to captain a struggling side and at the same time perform to meet his goal of getting back into the England set-up.

Ian took us to a trophy last year and no-one can deny that but I think this year, in the second year, it was clearly a bit too much for him, trying to do all of that together.

“And then Trott stepped in and has had the thin end of the wedge in terms of performances but has stuck at it and has been very proud to do it, unbelievably proud. He was very honoured to be vice-captain last year and to step up this year. The results haven’t gone his way and I think he’s hurting as much as anyone.

“We need to work out what we do going forward. There’s different thoughts: do you on a short-term basis give it to a senior player to see us through, to gel that new squad together and get us back into Division One or do you say “well, we’ll give a youngster a chance”?

“We’ve got some talented youngsters who’ve got some old heads on their shoulders, but at the same time, we don’t want to burden them when they are trying to make their way in the game.

“Over the winter we need to have a good look at that and make those decisions but we’ll do that calmly rather than in haste.”

It’s been a season of big matches at Edgbaston: “Commercially and reputationally we’ve had a very strong year”

In addition to matches in the Champions Trophy, in 2017, Edgbaston staged the first day/night Test in England and once again hosted T20 Finals Day. How did it all go?

“Two of our goals at the beginning of the season were to maximise the commercial benefit of what was a fantastic year of major match cricket, and to further enhance our reputation in the eyes of the ECB and the ICC as an international venue.

“We’re very pleased that we achieved both of those. Commercially, the Champions Trophy was a great success for us. We met all of our financial targets across that period and in those five matches.

“The day/night Test was a tremendous success for us financially. It’s difficult to put a figure on how much better the day/night Test was versus just the normal one.  But we think that there was a significant up side both in revenues in terms of ticketing, hospitality, retail catering and merchandise by making that bold step to hold the first day/night Test.

“In addition, this year’s T20 Finals Day was financially our most successful.

“Edgbaston as a venue: the staff here at the Club, the people of Birmingham and Warwickshire and the West Midlands really embraced the major matches.

“The ECB were very impressed with the matches that we put on as were the ICC. They went away very happy with what we did, particularly in a challenging time in terms of safety and security with everything that was going on in Manchester and in London and further afield. We had to respond to that and, certainly from my point of view, the safety and security of everybody is paramount and I think we delivered on that front.

“Both commercially and reputationally we’ve had a very strong year. We go into this winter in good heart.  In terms of the next allocation of matches from 2020 to 2024, which is really important for us, we’ll find that out next February.”

Off-the-field revenues: “The commercial programme has gone from strength to strength”

All county clubs are trying hard to maximise their revenues from off-the-field activities. This is particularly important at Edgbaston where there are still large debts arising from the ground development.

“The commercial programme has gone from strength to strength under Gareth Roberts’ leadership.  We’ve got a very exciting new partnership with Birmingham City University. We’ve had that relationship for a while, but with the opening of their new Sports Department and all of their new courses we’re doing much more work with them.

“The other one that I’m particularly pleased to have on board is Birmingham Airport. We’ve had a relationship with them for some time, but they actually joined our programme this year with their sponsorship of the T20 shirt.

“Then there’s the other part of the business – our Edgbaston Experience Ltd, which is the joint venture with Compass. It’s a huge part of the business and increasingly important going forward.

“We’ve had a record year again in terms of hospitality, all the retail catering, further year-on-year growth with the conference and events and banqueting business.

“It’s a big part of our focus to further grow that part of the business.”

How are the finances looking overall? “We are in a solid position financially”

“At the year end, outturn will exceed budget.

“We always knew that ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19 were going to be solid years. We’ve hit all of our targets, controlled our costs so we should be in a pretty good state this year and next year and it all should be building up to what should be a bumper year in 2019, with the World Cup and the Ashes.

“So at the moment, we are in a solid position financially.

“The major match allocation will be really important. If we get a good allocation, which we hopefully will from 2020 to 2024, that enables us to go into next year with a good six or seven years’ worth of certainty. And that helps in terms of building the business model around that.”

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