The loss of upcoming Sheffield Shield and Futures League cricket matches has been labelled an embarrassment by Wagga mayor Greg Conkey.
Less than three weeks ago, Cr Conkey said it was a great coup for the city.
However, after learning about the cancellations, he said “as mayor, I’m embarrassed by this”.
“It’s extremely disappointing for a lot of people looking forward to matches, especially as a Sheffield Shield match would be a major event for this city,” he said.
“I know the general manager is extremely disappointed and I see his disappointment about this.
The first-class match between NSW and Tasmania, scheduled for some time in November at Robertson Oval, was announced in September after the council and Cricket NSW entered an agreement.
However, it was only on October 10 that the council’s general manager, Peter Thompson, announced the cancellation due to substandard pitch conditions.
It's extremely disappointing for a lot of people looking forward to matches, especially as a Sheffield Shield match would be a major event for this city.Greg Conkey, Wagga City Mayor
“Unfortunately, while we now believe the pitch is progressing to meet the required standard, we have run out of time to prepare a wicket,” Mr Thompson said.
“Staff have been liaising with a NSW Cricket–nominated specialist in preparing the wicket given the proposed short timeframe from the end of the winter sports season until the proposed game.
“Through these discussions, it was identified that the pitch would not be able to be prepared in time for the proposed matches.”
Asked if there were other sections of Robertson Oval that were reviewed to meet standards, Mr Thompson said “all requests were able to be met other than the wicket”.
“Staff worked with NSW Cricket on the match and venue requirements,” he said.
As part of the agreement, the council would provide fee waivers – estimated at $2240 – from its Major Events Sponsorship budget to NSW Cricket to use Robertson Oval and the Oasis facilities.
“Council committed to waiving the $2240 of fees for the matches if they were to proceed – no payment to Cricket NSW occurred,” Mr Thompson said.
There was also an estimated $10,000 in-kind and $12,000 actual costs to the council for venue requirements.
Asked if these costs took effect, Mr Thompson reiterated that “no payment to Cricket NSW occurred”.
Lessons for the future
Cr Conkey said that some ongoing structural changes in the council’s Parks and Recreations department, which began before the agreement with Cricket NSW, would help mitigate similar outcomes in the future.
“The general manager was aware of some issues some time ago so he had put in place a process to restructure [Parks and Recreations],” Cr Conkey said.
“The minor restructure began some time ago so it’s nothing do with this situation.
“We’ll learn from our mistake.”
We’ll learn from our mistake.Greg Conkey, Wagga City Mayor
In response to queries about the departmental changes and lessons, Mr Thompson said “council has identified and is currently implementing the reinvestment into operational capability focusing on the technical skills and expertise in the preparation of premier sporting facilities and specifically pitch preparation”.
The council is set to continue discussions with Cricket NSW, with Cr Conkey saying they are ongoing “to ensure the city can attract first-class matches in the future”.
“We’ve got a good working relationship with them so we’ll be meeting with them to chat about it, to help them understand our situation,” he said.
“Robertson Oval is a fantastic oval – we received high praise when it was was used by the Big Bash earlier this year.”
Cricket NSW chief executive Andrew Jones said that the organisation’s policy “remains to play one Sheffield Shield match in regional NSW/ACT each season and we are keen to bring the Blues back there in the future”.
“We have a terrific relationship with council and appreciate their understanding in this matter,” Mr Jones said.
“We will continue to explore opportunities to bring elite content to the city.
“We are also actively working to further develop the cricket facilities at Bolton Park and in the broader region.”
The Sheffield Shield has been the nation’s first-class cricket competition since 1892 while the Futures League has been the country’s second-tier competition since 2011.
Both are run by Cricket Australia.
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