Balconiers chairman reacts to Glamorgan CC continuing absence from St Helens

THE chairman of a cricket-loving volunteer group has described the continued absence of Glamorgan Cricket Club from Swansea’s premier ground as “heart-breaking”.

The county side is playing a fixture this summer at The Gnoll, Neath, but won’t be stopping off at the seaside at St Helen’s as they used to – before the Covid pandemic at least.

John Williams, chairman of St Helen’s Balconiers, which has promoted and raised funds for Glamorgan since 1972, said: “I feel as if I have been thrown out of my own home and been powerless to do anything about it.”

Announcing its 2022 fixture list late last week Glamorgan head of operations, Dan Cherry, said: “Regrettably, we are unable to play at St Helen’s this year, with the facilities no longer able to support the hosting of domestic cricket at the venue.”

A club spokesman said no professional cricket had been played at the Swansea Council-owned ground since 2019 and that it had significant concerns that the surface and outfield would not meet the required standards to host first-class cricket this year. He also said operational infrastructure was lacking.

The spokesman added that all counties have been given until April next year to meet new minimum standards.

He said Glamorgan CC has been in touch with the council about St Helen’s and had a good relationship with it and with St Helen’s Balconiers.

The county side, he added, wanted to develop a centre of excellence in West Wales to grow the game.

For Mr. Williams and the Balconiers, the fixture announcement was another blow.

Mr. Williams said he felt that well over a century of cricket heritage at St Helen’s had been disrespected.

“It’s so sad – heart-breaking,” he said.

Mr. Williams, of Sketty, said the Baloniers had raised £450,000 over the last 12 years for Glamorgan and had arranged an annual awards evening at no cost to the county side since 1973.

Of St Helen’s itself, he said: “There is no ground in the country where you can watch cricket and have a view of a bay like Swansea.

“Ask all the county sides – they all want to come to St Helen’s.”

The roll call of famous cricket and rugby players to have graced St Helen’s is lengthy.

Australians Sir Don Bradman, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Bill Lawry, and recently Glenn McGrath all donned their whites there, as did West Indian maestros Sir Garfield Sobers – who made first-class cricket history by clubbing six sixes there in an over in 1968 – and Sir Clive Lloyd.

Mr. Williams said the Swansea area has been “a nursery” for Glamorgan, nurturing players including Alan Jones, Robert Croft, David Hemp, and the late Don Shepherd.

Swansea Council said the outfield and wicket at St Helen’s will undergo their usual council maintenance regime in readiness for the 2022 cricket season, and that it expected Swansea CC to play there as they did last season.

“We’ve maintained St Helen’s to first-class cricket standards for many years although we’re aware of new ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) guidelines due to come in shortly,” said a council spokesman.

The authority, he said, was committed to facilitating the development and delivery of sport in Swansea at community, student, and elite levels.

The spokesman added:

“We continue to have a strong partnership with the club and Balconiers. We look forward to this continuing in the future.”

Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com
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