Sussex County Cricket Club’s announcement that there will be no county cricket festival at Horsham next season has been greeted with dismay by Horsham CC, its members, local and more distant cricket lovers, the Council, the media and the county club, too.
Horsham CC has an outstanding record of organising successful festivals, the award-winning wicket often producing Sussex wins. Players and officials love coming to the club, where in over 100 years of county cricket famous names – Jack Hobbs, Viv Richards and many more – have enjoyed playing there. Among outstanding performances in recent years was Steve Magoffin’s bowling demolishing Somerset, exceptionally high scoring from Ian Bell and James Taylor and centuries from Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, Mike Atherton and Kevin Pietersen.
Horsham Cricket Club is especially disappointed and would love the Festival to continue but Sussex CEO Zac Toumazi told the District Post: “Horsham are great to work with and we love coming there but despite all of their tireless work no sponsor has been found. It costs a huge amount to bring the Festival to Horsham and we need five days of good takings to spread the set up costs.” This year the lucrative Sunday game was completely washed out and the four day game only lasted three, curtailing income.
No sponsor was found in 2014 but an anonymous benefactor stepped in and the weather was kind, ensuring good attendances and a healthy profit, 12,000 attending, just a short walk from the town centre. Jonathan Chowen, responsible for Leisure and Culture on Horsham District Council said: “Horsham has a unique ground and the Festival is a great, historic event in the cricket calendar, so the news is very sad and we’re very sympathetic.” Town Centre and Events Manager Garry Mortimer-Cook commented: “Everything in Horsham is on the up so it’s very disappointing” and Swan Walk Manager Gill Buchanan added: “Personally I’m very sad and it would be great if it could be saved.”
Ironically Sussex’s announcement coincided with the launch of the Sussex Cricket Foundation, MD Tim Shutt saying: “Our aim is to create a lifelong passion for cricket in the heart of every community.”
Professional cricket on grounds away from county HQs is an endangered species and, after enjoying the Horsham Festival, Alan Lee (former Times Cricket Correspondent) said: “County cricket must go the extra mile to preserve such venues, too many have perished already. Any further erosion will be calamitous for public support. It must not be allowed to fade.” Simon Heffer writing in the Telegraph adding: “If we had more cricket festivals, as we used to have, the game might be more popular.”
Notwithstanding Sussex’s cancellation Zac Toumazi told us: “If a committed sponsor comes forward we’d listen and see if anything could be done.”
The Arundel Festival continues with a sponsor to be announced. Meanwhile Eastbourne with Council backing is actively seeking the return of county cricket to The Saffrons.