Hampshire Cricket Club Chairman Rod Bransgrove
PUBLISHED: 14:21 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013
Hampshire Cricket Club is undergoing a transformation, both on and off the pitch. <br/><br/>Sion Donovan meets the man behind the success story, Chairman Rod Bransgrove
Nearly a decade ago, life at Hampshire County Cricket Club looked bleak. On field success was drying up and the insolvent county club looked set to wither on the vine.
But nine years on and its now a trophy-winning club, home to one of the biggest cricket stadia in the world and considered one of the best run clubs in the country.
A glorious summer now beckons for Hampshire Cricket. Life is blooming for the county club with new players, a new name and new stands sprouting forth from its ground as part of a further 48 million development of The Rose Bowl near Hedge End. The ground will also host its first Test Match next year when Sri Lanka will play England.
The clubs rise has been likened to the story of Cinderella, being turned from pauper to belle of the ball. And many would cast the clubs chairman and chief executive in the role of fairy godmother (or father). Rod Bransgrove had enjoyed success in business with Imperial Pharmaceuticals Services, a company he founded in 1986, which then merged in 1995 to form Shire Pharmaceuticals Group plc. It is now valued at 8 billion on the London Stock Exchange.
He was also a self-confessed cricket groupie, going to Hampshire away matches and enjoying a few beers with the team afterwards. So when the club ran into trouble in 2000 he was on hand to help.
I had a passion for the club, says Rod. Robin Smith (former Hampshire and England batsman) was one of my greatest friends and I knew quite a few of the players.
I realised something was wrong when the committee asked me to become Chairman. I hadnt enjoyed the greatest relationship previously with them because I had always been opposed to a voluntary committee running a business. I quickly realised the business was insolvent to the tune of 1.2 million and going nowhere. I had experienced some success with different businesses and I knew the club ground was moving to this wonderful 150-acre site where The Rose Bowl now is. Maybe I had been naive at the time about how long it would take to turn things around. The debt was significantly greater than I thought it would be.
But its been quite a transformation since then. It is a bit of a Cinderella club.
The Rose Bowl plc was formed for the long slog to take the club away from the sticky wicket it had found itself in. Now run as a business the club began to earn revenue, not only from cricket matches, but also from hosting conferences, events and concerts of up to 35,000 people watching big names like REM, Oasis and Neil Diamond.
Its nine-hole golf course has also been a money earner. Plans to enlarge it to an 18-hole championship-length course at a cost of 5 million are part of the development programme, although it will be at least three years before its completion.
Two major new stands and executive boxes worth 9 million are due to be finished early this season. These additional seats will take The Rose Bowls permanent capacity to 15,000, with semi-permanent seating allowing for an audience of 25,000 for
Rod believes with these improvements, The Rose Bowl could become the new home of cricket: Weve always been aware we cant compete with the tradition of Lords. It is the epicentre of cricket history. But we look forwards not backwards. We want this to be the new home of cricket. Weve designed The Rose Bowl from the ground up to make sure the spectators experience is second to none.
The club also intends to start work on a new hotel later this year. The 175-bedroom, four-star resort hotel will contain luxury spa and leisure facilities as well as major conferencing facilities.
But the hotel is currently subject to a judicial review from a consortium of local hoteliers who are unhappy that 32 million of the 48 million further development of The Rose Bowl site is public money from Eastleigh Borough Council. Rod explains: At the moment some of the local hoteliers are causing an irritation because theyve asked for a judicial review in to the financial arrangements. But hopefully that will be resolved quickly.
On the field of play the season ahead looks promising, with new signings including South African test player Neil McKenzie, England bowler Kabir Ali and former Ashes hero Simon Jones. Rod hopes Hampshire can build on their success after winning the one-day competition, the Friends Provident Trophy, last summer: Every year we want to win trophies. Last year when we had won the Friends Provident Trophy we looked back on the year and thought we might have done even better.
The club had enjoyed some success in the 1950s and 1970s but it was known more as Happy Hampshire. Everybody enjoyed playing and it was quite a social time. The culture of the club has changed immeasurably. We have professional fitness facilities where many of the players have been training hard over the winter; (former coach) Paul Terry and (Australian test star) Shane Warne brought us to a different level from the Happy Hampshire environment to a more business like team. We hopefully still know how to celebrate, but they brought a controlled aggression on the field.
Since then weve been able to attract the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Kabir Ali and Dominic Cork to the club and brought on high quality young players like Liam Dawson and James Vince who have come in to the side and done well.
Hampshire can also look forward to an Indian summer after joining forces with Shane Warnes Indian Premier League franchise. The Rajasthan Royals have formed a new global alliance with Hampshire, Cape Cobras, Trinidad and Tobago and an Australian domestic team to form a worldwide Twenty20 brand to play the exciting 20-over format of the game.
All the clubs Twenty20 teams have been renamed Royals, with a tournament between the teams set to take place in Britain this summer followed up by ones next year in the Gulf, South Africa or Australia.
Were still discovering the full benefits of this relationship, Rod says, The ability to share a domestic brand around the world is exciting, to take the Hampshire Royals name into Asia and the Middle East which are growing markets. Weve already been approached by new and larger sponsors than we have had in the past.
We know there are rules we have to abide by and we will speak to the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) very soon about staging the first Royals tournament. But the future is exciting.
Rods Hampshire history
My father was in the RAF so I grew up in places like Singapore, Kent and London. I moved to Hampshire in 1985 when I was 35 to set up my pharmaceutical business. We lived just outside Andover. Hampshire is where my home is, we raised our children here, Lucy, 21, and Jack, 15.
Favourite Hampshire view
For me its The Rose Bowl. And you can get some terrific views from the pavilion roof up to the Meon Valley, Winchester and even possibly New Forest on a good day. Its quite an impressive panorama.
I have two. Les Mirabelles in Nomansland on the edge of the New Forest is one. Its run by an experienced French maitre d. Its ambient, high quality with a superb wine list. I also like the Hotel du Vin in Winchester. Its been a pretty high standard for many years and its got an excellent wine list.