Glamorgan Cricket CEO claims network upgrade will better serve media, help it beat other counties for England matches and take on One Direction
Next month, the latest staging of the Ashes will see England once again take on Australia in front of packed crowds across the country, all eager to see who will emerge victorious in cricket’s most storied rivalry.
But with the majority of action taking place during work hours in the UK or in the middle of the night for Australians, many cricket fans will be reliant on television, radio and online coverage to keep up.
This unprecedented importance of the media has been the driving force behind Glamorgan Cricket Club to upgrade the network at its SSE SWALEC Stadium (also known as Sophia Gardens), host of the first Ashes test.
With television so important to the financial health of the ECB, and its ability to promote the sport at grass roots level, any cricket club looking to host an England match is aware of the need to provide the best facilities for the media.
The days of journalists hurriedly filing copy over the phone or via fax are long gone and video streaming, Twitter and ball-by-ball text commentaries are the order of the day.
Glamorgan chief executive Hugh Morris (pictured) is all too aware and hopes the upgrade will allow the SWALEC, which will also host matches at both the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and 2019 Cricket World Cup, to attract more England matches in the future.
“The whole landscape of how sport is reported and recorded now is just a million miles away from the ‘ancient’ days when I was playing!” he explained to TechWeekEurope. “Cricket is such a data-rich sport and people are fascinated by that data, so to provide to them as quickly as we possibly can is really important.
“[All the test cricket grounds] are looking for a competitive edge at the moment. We’re in a very competitive market with other sports stadia and other cricket grounds around the country. There are nine test match grounds now and only seven matches each summer.
“We had a state of the art stadium here that was built for the 2009 Ashes but over the last few years, clearly the world of technology has moved on greatly.
“When we started in 2008, we had a 6Mbps line into the ground. Now we have a capacity of 100Mbps but with the capability to increase that substantially. One of the major attractions of partnering with Avaya was future proofing what we did here and adding to the system we have.
“Other clubs have sought competitive advantages in certain ways and we believe this is something that sets us apart from the crowd.”
Up to 120 journalists, photographers and broadcasters will be supported by the new infrastructure, built by Avaya in just five days. It is claimed the network can be reconfigured within hours to support different types of events, such as concerts or conferences, supporting Glamorgan’s aim of boosting its non-cricketing income.
“We were very keen to partner with someone who understood sport and stadia,” said Morris. “Obviously, Avaya delivered the Sochi and Vancouver Winter Olympics – they’re very impressive people and we absolutely felt they were the right partners for us.
The network will principally be for media, broadcasters and operational stuff during the Ashes, with just some limited connectivity for spectators. For example, Glamorgan’s ‘business club’ members were able to connect during Friday night’s Twenty20 match between Glamorgan and Middlesex.
Better than One Direction?
However Morris says general access is a “medium term” ambition, especially as it seeks to engage with customers and attract them to more cricket by offering custom applications, special deals and a better match day experience. The ultimate ambition is for the SWALEC to be the most technologically advanced cricket stadium in the world.
“We have a lot of high-profile cricket now,” he said, but added. “Tonight we have a T20 game against Middlesex and literally within 200 metres there’s a One Direction concert at the Millennium Stadium and Manic Street Preachers are playing Cardiff Castle. We’re in a very competitive entertainment market.
“It is definitely our aspiration to try and lead the way. We have lofty ambitions and a good reputation for hosting international matches. People talk about the warm Welsh welcome when they come to Cardiff and that’s something we want to build on.
Of course, other cricket grounds are stepping up their game. Prior to assuming his role at Glamorgan, Morris (a former international cricketer for England) was the first managing director of the England Cricket team at the ECB, allowing him to witness the growing importance of technology in the corridors of power.
“I went to the ECB in 1997 and I left in 2013,” he said. “When I started, it was a £32 million turnover business, by the time I finished we were a £140 million [business].
“[The ECB] expanded massively and with that the use of technology within the organisation expanded massively. As far as the England team was concerned, it was the way we used data and analysis. What the ECB tried to do was to consolidate and seek efficiency in the way counties and cricket boards managed their information. It was a ‘sea change’ in technology.”
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