London: Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur has voiced concerns that delays over the redevelopment of Headingley could leave the county without international cricket for four years.
The headquarters ground of English county champions Yorkshire, Headingley already faces stiff competition for international cricket from several other venues.
But unlike those rivals, Headingley is home to two sports, with Super League side Leeds Rhinos playing on the adjoining rugby league ground.
Yorkshire and Leeds share Headingley’s main stand, which is due to undergo a £38 million ($47 million, 43 million euros) upgrade.
This was due to begin in January but Wednesday saw the Rhinos announce the work was being delayed due to “complex planning matters” relating to the South Stand.
That should still mean that Leeds will be operating in a capacity stadium next season but the impact on Yorkshire could be far more severe.
Improved facilities are a key part of Yorkshire’s bid when the 2020-2024 round of England fixtures are allocated next year and Arthur fears any uncertainty about Headingley could see Yorkshire, the county of England stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, miss out completely, as well as being ignored for the 2019 50-over World Cup in England.
“The 2020-2024 major matches will be allocated in the summer of 2017, therefore this delay could mean that Headingley will no longer be considered fit for Test match cricket — or to host any World Cup matches in 2019,” he said.
“Not only does this delay impact the club’s ability to stage internationals, it would also have profound consequences to both Yorkshire’s and Leeds Rhinos’ valuable and long-standing work within the wider community,” added Arthur, who has previously warned that, without improved facilities and strong ticket sales, both issues for Yorkshire in recent years, Headingley could “fall off the cliff face” of international cricket.
The county’s existing staging agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board guarantees Headingley one Test a year until 2019, when the ground will stage its first Ashes match since 2009.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “We are desperately disappointed to be making this announcement but remain hopeful that the scheme will go ahead as planned in the near future.”