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

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

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. 

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.”

Work in the community: “We had over 1300 young people who took part in All Stars”

Since his arrival at Edgbaston, Neil has placed the Club’s involvement in the community as a high priority. How is this going?

“Ravi Masih joined us at the end of last year to head up our community work, and that’s really taken it forward.

“The Edgbaston Foundation which is our trust is established and is starting to bring some funds in, which means we can invest more in the community.

“The work we’ve done with St Basils [the charity that tackles youth homelessness] has been particularly rewarding this year, including the sleep-out that we did back at the beginning of the year which I won’t forget in a hurry. We’ll be doing that again next year.

“Also we’ve done work with mental health with young disadvantaged people.

“The relationship between what I call “Bears in the Community” and then the work that we do here at Edgbaston I think is really starting to grow.

“In addition, I was just meeting with Ed McCabe, the General Manager of the Warwickshire Cricket Board. We have a very strong relationship with them.

“There’s quite a bit of discussion within the game about the relationships between the county clubs and the cricket boards and the leagues as to how they all work together.

“As for All Stars, which is the big new ECB programme, we had over 1300 young people who took part. In fact Kings Heath is up for the national award for best All Stars programme, which would be a great feather in their cap.”

What are the latest developments around the planned new T20 competition?  “Going full steam ahead.  We’ll get more detail in the early part of next year”

We haven’t heard too much from the ECB lately about the big, new T20 competition planned to start in T20. Are there any updates that Neil can give us?

“It’s gone a little bit quiet, understandably. There was the big build-up earlier in the year when the decision was made to go with it, but the ECB have had a lot on their plate with the new broadcast deal –  the new T20 competition was part of that. Then there were the resultant changes to the governance structure, so there’s a lot going on.

“Discussions are still on-going but I’m hoping that soon, around about the time we get the major match allocation, we should get confirmation of all the venues and then we can start working on the brands. By then, we’ll be 18 months away from the new competition.

“So still going full steam ahead, but I think we’ll get a bit more detail in the early part of next year.

“And we are very much hoping that Edgbaston will be one of the venues.” 

What about naming rights for Edgbaston Stadium?  “It’s not a major priority at the moment.”

There was talk last year about the Club seeking to sell the naming rights for Edgbaston Stadium. Since then, nothing much has been heard. Is it still on the cards? Neil can see the pros and cons.

“Yes, it is something that we’re looking at.

“I’ve got mixed feelings, really. When I came here, I inherited an agreement that we’d set up with a marketing agency to help us find the naming rights. We brought that to a head and decided that there wasn’t anybody suitable there.

“So I would say, if there’s the right opportunity and the right partner who’s genuinely going to work with us, I wouldn’t rule it out.

“At the same time, there’s part of me that likes being one of the only clubs, along with Lord’s and Trent Bridge who have retained the tradition of the original names.

“Although we’ve done lots of things that are new, I like the fact that we are Edgbaston; and I’m sure that some of our members feel the same way about that.

Let’s not forget those female Bears: “Women’s cricket is really important to us”

The Club is very much involved in the development of women’s cricket in the county.  Where does this figure in the list of priorities?

“This has been a good year for women’s cricket. It is really important to us. With Ashley coming into his new role, a part of his brief is to have oversight of the women’s game.

“Under the coaching and leadership of Darren Franklin, that’s going well. We had a very good year both in the 50 over competition and the T20 competition. We got right to the point in the final round of matches where we could have won both, but unfortunately just slightly fell away.

“We are continuing to produce some talented young players who are involved in the England set-up. From the squad that won, Jenny Gunn and Amy Jones are with Warwickshire and our women’s Birmingham Bears.

“Also, we did a lot of work with women’s and girls’ softball festivals. We had 12 festivals around the county, all developing softball cricket and getting more women and girls into the game. I’m particularly pleased with the way that’s gone.

“I suspect that as we head towards the year 2020, there might be the opportunity to expand the women’s professional side of things and hopefully we can get more involved in that in Warwickshire and Edgbaston as well.”

What about the supporters? “Bears fans took over the whole of Block Nine and were just fantastic”

Does Neil have a message for all the Members and supporters who have endured such a disappointing season?

“One of the things that’s really pleased me is the support that we’ve had from our members and our fans: the genuine fans who have enjoyed the good times. I think they’ve seen what’s been coming. Like us, no-one thought that it would be quite that dramatic in the falling in performances. But the members that I’ve spoken to have said, “well, we knew that this was coming, we’re pleased to see that stuff’s happening” as in recruitment and giving the young guys a chance; and I think they understand what we’re trying to do.

“There’s some other people on social media who understandably will have a pop and criticise the club; and everyone’s got their own opinion. But the people that I listen to and respect are the people who’ve been members for a long time, have seen the ups and downs. We’ve had the ups and we’re going through a bit of a down.

“I really do appreciate the support of the members. When I go to the away games, there’s always a good number of Bears there.

“I have to say that probably my highlight of the year was the T20 quarter final down at Surrey, where the Bears fans took over the whole of Block Nine and were just fantastic.

“In fact, Richard Gould, the Chief Exec of Surrey, even though he was devastated to lose, said the Bears fans were absolutely terrific. He said they were colourful, noisy, well-behaved and a real credit to the Club.

“And that was not just in the T20 but also here, with the County Championship and the 50 Overs. We’ve got some tremendously loyal fans and we do appreciate their patience, particularly as we’ve gone through a pretty challenging time.

“The general feel I get from supporters is, we’re taking actions, hopefully moving things in the right direction; but they want to see a turn in fortunes sooner rather than later; and I understand that and we should all expect that at Warwickshire.”

Final thoughts: “It’s been a very, very successful year but with a very big dark cloud”

“It’s a funny emotion as I start to look back on the year. In terms of the big picture, our ultimate direction of travel and where we want to get to, it’s been a very, very successful year but with a very big dark cloud which has been the performance of the Warwickshire team in the Championship and the 50 Over.

“So it really is genuinely mixed emotions as we approach the end of the year.”


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