There are eighteen first class counties in the cricket circuit of England and Wales. Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Somerset, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Surrey, Middlesex, Sussex, Hampshire, Essex, Kent, Northamptonshire.
All of them have their various grounds. Notts play at Trent Bridge, Lancashire at Old Trafford, Somerset at Taunton to name only three. While this is the same as Everton playing at Goodison Park, Shrewsbury Town at Gay Meadow and Eastbourne Borough at Priory Lane, there is one crucial difference.
Football teams have a small area of fans; cricket counties have a much larger one. And therefore, counties have other grounds where they play some home matches. Outgrounds.
There is an argument to say that outgrounds are the lifeblood of cricket counties. That there is where lies the true fans who come and sit to reminisce about the good times, create an old fashioned atmosphere and the sound of bat on ball is not heard truer.
Outgrounds and counties exist in a harmony rarely found in professional sport. Cricket counties don’t make much money, it’s headline news whenever they turn over a profit, and so need as many money-making schemes as possible. The actual event of a match at an outground won’t raise a huge deal, but the possibility of lending your main ground out to an international match, a concert or other event certainly will.
The way counties tend to play their matches at outgrounds is through what is known as a festival. They pick a week, and play a county championship match and a T20 at an outground. The outground gets a chance to perform, produce a wicket that gives an exciting match and try to entice people who wouldn’t otherwise watch cricket.
One of the most famous festivals is at Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire’s outground. The event is so popular with the ground, the club and fans that they extend it over two weeks, with over 20,000 people attending it last year. This year they host two Championship matches and three T20s. It’s a major event in Gloucestershire’s calendar.
So if you live in Scarborough, Arundel or Aigburth (or anywhere else near an outground), take a look at the calendar and see whether you can fit in a trip. Even if you don’t like cricket, you might be surprised by the experience.