Hundreds of Northamptonshire fans protest over cricket shop move

Northants fan Trevor Bailey, a former Northampton mayor, in front of the current shop
Northants fan Trevor Bailey, a former Northampton mayor, in front of the current shop

Northants cricket fans have sent a petition of about 300 signatures to the county club asking it to halt the relocation of a cherished bookshop at Wantage Road.

The Signal Box shop, which is situated next to the scoreboard, sells books, programmes and scorecards and is manned by volunteers.

But plans to move it to another part of the ground and replace it with a bar aimed at the T20 season will jeopardise its future, the supporters say.

Trevor Bailey, chairman of the NCCC supporters’ club, saidsaid: “Fans have a problem with two elements, really.

“One is that a big reason for volunteers to man the shop is that they have a view of the cricket, which it won’t have in the new location. You will end up with volunteers only willing to open during lunch and tea.

“The other thing is that we raise funds for the club and we won’t see much passing trade if we’re moved. For example money from last season helped fund the tour to Barbados last month.

“It’s a shame because we offer something quirky that away supporters love to visit and that could be lost.

“The chief executive said he’d look at it so I’m still hopeful.”

The plea in the petition says that, in order to raise money, the Supporters’ Club needs to be active and visible.

It points out that, as well as book sales, they are the main information point on the ground.

They also sell scorecards for Northants Cricket, and provide their own members with a place to renew or take out membership, book luncheon places, and book coach seats for away fixtures.

It also points out that, several years ago, a short-lived experiment of relocating the Supporters’ Club to an out-of-the-way location was tried, when Steve Coverdale was chief executive.

The Signal Box was turned into a small hospitality suite but that was unsuccessful as Supporters’ Club volunteers declined to man a shop from where they could not see the cricket, and income fell away.

They were allowed to return to the Signal Box after one year.

Northants Cricket says putting a bar in place of the Signal Box in time for the T20 season will increase revenues on match days.

The club said that, following the petition, it was currently “in consultation” with the supporters “to ensure a smooth transition”.

Ray Payne, the chief executive, said: “This is part of our ongoing programme of improving facilities for fans and securing a commercial future for the club.”

The shop is being relocated to bigger facilities boasting secure storage and the club says the existing premises are to be converted ready for the T20 Blast season that begins on May 15, although the competition’s first game at Wantage Road is May 29. w

Mr Payne said: “The Supporters’ Club will be located in a building that is bigger and better on the other side of the ground that will suit their needs perfectly and we will be helping them relocate and communicate the move.”