LONDON: London’s two major cricket grounds announced expansion schemes Friday, with the Oval set to overtake Lord’s as the venue with the largest capacity in the English game.
The Oval, the south London headquarters of Surrey, plans to increase its capacity from 25,500 to 40,000 in time for the 2023 Ashes Test series against Australia.
That would take it well above Lord’s, the self-styled ‘home of cricket’.
Friday also saw Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which owns Lord’s, announce a more modest plan to increase the northwest London ground’s capacity from 30,000 to 32,000.
The MCC is considering two proposals. One would involve building two 10-storey blocks of flats adjacent to the Nursery Ground that would fund provide some £100 million ($127 million, 114 million euros) towards ground development.
The other, less ambitious scheme, known as the Masterplan, would see work worth £89 million carried out using the club’s own funds.
Officials insisted Lord’s could continue to stage matches while any building work was ongoing, with MCC saying in a statement: “MCC is assuming that it will continue to host its current level of international cricket because of its historically strong ticket sales and confidence that every touring team wants to play at Lord’s.”
MCC members have been invited to give their views before a vote at a special general meeting in September.
Lord’s is also home to Middlesex, the reigning English county champions.
Even with the planned increases, the capacity of both Lord’s and the Oval would still be behind that of other major international cricket venues such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground (100,000) and Kolkata’s Eden Gardens (66,000).
Surrey said their plans for the Oval had been driven by spectator interest.
“Most of our major games now sell out, either for county cricket or international cricket, and we need more seats to meet demand,” said Surrey chief executive Richard Gould.
The Oval is set to stage the final of the ongoing Champions Trophy one-day international tournament and Surrey chairman Richard Thompson said: “The time is now right for (English) cricket to think on a bigger scale.”
The first Test match played in England took place against Australia at the Oval in 1880, three years after the teams had first met in Melbourne.
Although it is more than 40 years since MCC ceased to run English cricket, it retains worldwide responsibility for the sport’s ‘Laws’ or rules.