GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Cricket Club are considering changing their name in a bid to draw in more supporters from Bristol.
Despite being based in the sixth largest city in England, the County struggle to attract members and new chief executive Will Brown thinks he might have the answer.
Brown is keen to pull in the crowds, especially for the Friday night T20 Blast fixtures introduced this season.
He said: “The name is an issue. Should we be Bristol and Gloucestershire?
“There is a growing groundswell of opinion that maybe we should be looking to have Bristol in the name somewhere.
“Should we follow Warwickshire’s example where they have renamed the T20 team the Birmingham Bears? Should we be the Bristol Badgers or something for T20 cricket?”
Any change to the historic name would be controversial, and Brown is quick to stress nothing will be imposed on the members against their will.
He said: “Ultimately, we are a membership society and members have the final say.”
The 38-year-old, who joined from Betfair in September, is keen to expand the membership which is on
the up for the first time in eight
years as the county works to pay off a bank loan on the ground redevelopment.
The club loses many potential supporters and players to Somerset because of the league structure and historical ties, where their neighbours lay claim to anything south of the River Avon.
But Brown thinks making the club more Bristol focused could help reverse that.
He said: “We’ve been playing in Bristol for 125 years, yet we are Gloucestershire Cricket Club. We have suffered from a lack of awareness of us within the city.
“We are the sixth biggest city in England and we are the only international sporting venue in the South West of England, from Birmingham to Southampton.
“We need to engage with Bristol a bit more. A lot of the T20 fixtures
are now on Friday nights, so we
want to attract the groups of girls and guys to come up here, have a pint on the way up Gloucester Road, have a burger in the ground, watch the cricket and then head off into town.”
Brown added he did not want to alienate fans in Cheltenham, Gloucester or elsewhere and described the iconic Cheltenham Festival – where the club de-camp to the Regency town for a fortnight in July – as “truly sensational.”
And he admits the most important aspect of attracting more fans is success on the field, with a top-two championship finish and reaching the finals of one or both one-day competitions among the performance indicators on which he will be judged by the board.
“We will be asking our players to step up this year,” he said.
Cricket writer Pete Orchard gives his view...
NOBODY should be surprised that talk of re-branding Gloucestershire County Cricket Club has been met with horror and derision.
Meddling with 144 years of history is not only crass and stupid but also hints at some worryingly muddled thinking at Nevil Road.
It is only a year since Gloucestershire quietly dropped the ‘Gladiators’ nickname from their limited overs teams, deciding it was too gimmicky and of little
commercial gain. Somerset, Hampshire and other counties have done the same, which makes the ‘Bristol Badgers’ nonsense all the more baffling in its timing.
The idea of franchises replacing the traditional counties is nothing new, with chief executives desperate to cash in on the global Twenty20 phenomenon and put more bums on seats on match days.
Back in January former ECB chairman Lord MacLaurin used England’s Ashes debacle as a stick to beat the county game with, even suggesting Gloucestershire could be merged with Glamorgan or their ‘friends’ from Taunton.
Long-suffering County followers were able to laugh it off, but they will struggle to see the funny side of Will Brown’s claim that there is a “growing groundswell of opinion that maybe we should be looking to have Bristol in the name somewhere.”
This is not an attack on Brown, who is new to the top job and is absolutely right to be exploring all possible options to drive up revenue in Bristol.
Gloucestershire have lagged behind their rivals for too long commercially, and the former Betfair man has a duty to address the issue of an ageing and dwindling membership.
But he is misguided if he believes the Birmingham Bears model at Warwickshire would be the answer in Gloucestershire, where love of cricket is perhaps most passionate in the north of the county.
For every new fan attracted to a Bristol-based franchise there would be two in Cheltenham and Gloucester left feeling slighted.
Cirencester Grammar School’s Wally Hammond and Stroud’s Jack Russell are just two of the all-time greats who served the ‘Glorious Glo’sters’ – a song belted out with gusto by the current team after every victory.
Pie in the sky or not, the Bristol Badgers need to be culled immediately.