My name is Ian Lomax and I am co-founder of the Lancashire supporters’ group, the Lancashire Action Group. We were formed in 2014 due to the major unrest at the Club caused by a combination of poor playing performances and inadequate supporters’ facilities after the redevelopment of the ground.
We completed our own Members’ survey regarding facilities and after receiving hundreds of replies compiled a dossier with 34 recommendations. With the threat of a Special General Meeting in the air (we had quadruple the number of members’ signatures required to force one) the Club did act on some of our recommendations such as refurbishing the old Red Rose Suite, allowing fans onto the playing area during intervals, reinstating the library and improving disabled facilities.
Several members of our group then joined the newly created Members’ Representative Group (MRG); however, they found the group to be ineffective and felt that they had wasted their time trying to achieve anything of significance. In 2018 we produced the only fanzine in County Cricket – Not the Spin, which has been a huge success and we will be producing our 8th issue in April. It is now edited by Roy Cavanagh MBE and Stuart Brodkin, both of whom have written several books on Lancashire Cricket and we have a number of distinguished writers including Paul Fitzpatrick (ex-Guardian cricket correspondent). It has a readership of many thousands and in addition to the fanzine we have an email newsletter list of just under a thousand, a successful website to buy our merchandise and we continue to grow on social media with our Twitter account now having just under 3,000 followers and our private Facebook group having more than 700 members.
We welcome your commitment to the Membership of the Club and I am sure you are dismayed that the Club has lost around an incredible 9,000 members over the last 20 years. You state that “We’ve got to work with the members to become a stronger Club and we’ve got to build a stronger Membership base as well”. I would welcome an interview with you or article from you to explain to our readership how you intend to repair the fractured relationship between many of the members and supporters and how you could win back the thousands who have left the Club over the last two decades.
We are continuing to campaign for the following:
1. Abolish the Board-appointed Nominations Committee allowing Members to stand democratically for the Board.
2. The return of a stand-alone Museum that was disgracefully demolished during the rebuild of Old Trafford.
3. Allow Traditional members an elevated view from their own pavilion. The draconian decision to ban Members from their own Pavilion balconies was directly responsible for a large reduction in Membership.
4. Two Championship and National League fixtures to be held at outgrounds within the historical Lancashire boundaries.
5. No 1st team games to be played at Sedbergh. We wrote to Daniel Gidney stating that we would force an SGM if the Club hosted another Championship game at the school. We were told that plans to host a Championship game in 2020 were changed.
6. Re-form a democratic members’ committee.
7. Allow Members’ forums to be allowed to discuss Members’ issues and produce minutes. Bizarrely, two years ago it was announced that ‘only cricketing issues’ could be brought up at meetings.
8. Ensure all refunds for abandoned games are finalised within 14 days. A delay of 30 days (breaking the Club’s own terms and conditions) occurred twice in 2019 and is totally unacceptable.
After the release of our first fanzine in April 2018, I was banned from the ground and despite holding two subsequent meetings with Director Jason Hopwood to discuss the fanzine and to improve dialogue with ourselves and the Club there has been no more contact with the Club. I hope that the above invitation will be taken at face value, and on behalf of the Action Group, wish you every success in your post.
Lancashire Action Group
Below is the reply Ian received. It is now a month later but still no open letter has been seen.
With the new season fast approaching he is leaving it late to attract and prioritise members as he stated in his statement back over 4 months ago in November when taking over as Chairman. We cannot accuse Andy of ignoring us but this letter is quite clever in that it also doesn’t actually say anything...
Dear Mr Lomax,
Thank you for your recent communication addressed to Andy Anson, Chairman of the Club. The Chairman notes and thanks you for your comments which he has added to a number of other communications and observations raised by several of the members of the Club. Consequently, Andy has determined that the best way to respond is via a wider communication to all members by means of an open letter.
He believes that both his and the Club's current views on key current issues raised will be of interest to the wider membership.
We will ensure you will receive a copy of this letter when it is published.
Dear Daniel, 6th September 2019
I trust you are well. I have enjoyed our chats with you over the past 5 years since the Lancashire Action Group was formed.
Despite the Club banning two of the Action Group from the ground the day after our first fanzine came out, I was pleased to have been invited to a couple of meetings last year with your Sales and Marketing Director James Hopwood, although disappointed that he refused to answer after our second meeting, despite assurances that he would come back to me about the Action Groups questions regarding the running of the Club.
It was a great shame that the Vitality Blast T20 game was abandoned against Yorkshire on Friday 9th August. After originally releasing a statement stating, to the astonishment of many, that no refund would be paid to members of the Club, after severe social media pressure, the Club then carried out a u-turn and promised to refund all members within 28 days of the fixture. As you are aware Lancashire (unlike Yorkshire members who have the game included as part of their membership package), charge members on top of their fees if they wish to attend the fixture.
Despite 28 days being a longer period than most other counties take the deadline is now upon us and we have received a large amount of correspondence from Lancashire fans, both members and non members, who are still waiting for their promised refund. This includes statements from supporters stating that they are to take legal advice if they are not paid immediately. Whilst we do not recommend they take this route I am sure you can understand the frustration being shown by the action taken from the Club to delay refunds over this 28 day period.
The Action Group request that all refunds are processed by the end of today. The club has lost around 8,000 members over the last 20 years let us hope this spectacular own goal will not result in more leaving the Club.
We have also been informed that Members who have tried to contact the Members Representative Group have also had no joy although as no minutes have been produced all season from any possible meeting of this non-elected body we suggest they are abolished. As many of this group have confirmed to us over the last few years their hands are tied by the Club and they are not fit for purpose.
Lancashire Action Group
As you are probably aware the Lancashire Board are looking at using Sedbergh again as an outground for next years Championship game(s) putting it ahead of the likes of grounds in Lancashire such as Blackpool, Southport & Liverpool. Rather than force a Special General Meeting at this stage (we will get the 100 members names required) we have written the below open letter to the Board requesting they reconsider using common sense and logic regarding this issue. If you were a member last season and support the proposal please email us confidentially with your name and if possible membership number to - firstname.lastname@example.org, or direct message us on facebook, twitter or through our website at www.lancsactiongroup.com. Let us hope the Board see sense on this matter.
Open letter to the Lancashire (County) Cricket Board
We wholeheartedly support the interests of cricket in Lancashire, a glorious county that has around 300 cricket clubs, ranging from the village green to leagues that are amongst the highest-ranked in the entire country.
However, if Sedbergh is awarded a first-class fixture AGAIN the clamour for an SGM would be hard to stop, and we already have the member numbers who would be able – and willing – to do that right now.
Surely, there are some grounds in Lancashire that could become permanent outgrounds as opposed to fans having to travel to another county?
Heading a very experienced business board as you do, surely any serious county cricket executive would have, and should have, taken measures by way of leadership to secure outground provisions.
Just how has Lancashire cricket club managed to get itself into such a position when they are surely well aware of all the clubs, large and small, in the county? Did you not see any early warning signs? Has somebody fallen asleep on the job?
Of course, there are three outgrounds that stand out from the rest – Blackpool, Liverpool and Southport. You will not need reminding that one of these grounds, Liverpool, virtually assured our first county championship for 77 years in 2011.
The other two are prime seaside resorts that would ensure very decent crowds to watch county cricket. Indeed, many of the other 17 counties would give their right arm to have such opportunities.
So can you tell us exactly why are we are not trying to ensure that any deficiencies they allegedly have – lack of a full-time groundsman at Southport and lack of suitable drainage at Blackpool – are not put right.
Instead, the club appears to be wasting money on an albeit picturesque ground outside Lancashire or by creating a new ‘super’ outground, as mentioned by Daniel Gidney at the members’ forum in September?
In an era of vastly-declining county membership and the heavy investment in Old Trafford, we should be also be investing in those outgrounds already equipped to stage first-class fixtures and where our loyal supporters always turn up in numbers.
Having other grounds to play on if Old Trafford is unavailable is, of course, advisable, but the failure to correct any issues at Blackpool and Southport seems like mismanagement on the part of whoever is responsible.
Lancashire are regularly promoting cricket around our county, but yet seem happy to play one of the few matches staged outside Old Trafford in another county.
The considerable costs of playing at Sedbergh is ‘dead money’ and we have been advised that putting on coaches and mini-buses to ferry supporters to the ground cost many thousands of pounds. A significant amount of Lancashire supporters had to leave the game early this year to get home because of the lack of infrastructure in the area. The ground is in the middle of nowhere for goodness sake!
It alienates the vast majority of Lancashire supporters and is tempting fate playing at a ground which has one of the highest annual rainfall levels in the country which is far higher (46%) than Blackpool and Liverpool & (35%) than Southport. Sedbergh also has significant drainage problems. In recent years there have been a number of minor counties games abandoned and only this year a three-day Minor Counties fixture in the high summer of August saw no play whatsoever, and had to be moved to nearby Netherfield, in Kendal, where all the officials were staying anyway to stage a one-day match!
As we have stated, we are 100 per cent behind Lancashire and it’s time you listened to what the REAL fans are saying.
It’s never too late to change tack and give the supporters what they want on our rightful return to County Championship’s First Division.
Lancashire Action Group