Lord’s England Test match ticket prices risk alienating fans and preserve sport’s elitist reputation

Lord’s Cricket Ground face 20,000 empty seats on opening day of Test match between England and New Zealand

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The wait for England’s next cricket Test series is finally over.

Tomorrow (Thursday 2 June) England will play New Zealand for the first of three Tests with the opening match taking place at the historic home of the sport, Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Any Lord’s Test match is a grand affair, but this year’s Test match coincides with the Queen’s Jubilee, as well as signalling the start of England’s ‘new era’ of cricket with Ben Stokes as captain, Brendon McCullam as the new red-ball head coach and Rob Key as the new managing director - an event any cricket fan would be feverish to see.

However the buzzing atmosphere of a Test at the iconic ground is set to be severely lacking, with around 20,000 empty seats expected over the course of the match.

People have immediately rushed to conclusions as to why so many seats remain: England’s lack of form; the Queen’s Jubilee; half-term holidays and - a personal favourite - the ban of the Barmy Army trumpeter.

However, when an average ticket for the event costs in excess of £100, can the MCC really be surprised that they are still looking to fill the ground?

Last year, Lord’s recorded one of the fastest sales in its history ahead of England’s ODI series against Pakistan but the UK’s former sports minister, Richard Caborn also called out iconic ground for ‘extortionate’ prices.

Caborn spoke to The Telegraph saying: “They’re going to find themselves being unduly criticised because they’re not taking notice of all the circumstances surrounding a lot of people now.”

Unsurprisingly, that is exactly where we find the ‘home of cricket’ now.

Lord’s have received numerous complaints from fans and players regarding the mortgage needed to buy a single ticket for a day’s play, including from former England captain Michael Vaughan.

England’s 2005 Ashes winning captain took to Twitter to say: “Lords not being full this week is embarrassing for the game.

“Try and blame the Jubilee if they want but I guarantee if tickets weren’t 100-160 pounds it would be jam packed! Why are they so expensive?”

After the Lord’s Test match, England and New Zealand travel up to Trent Bridge and Headingley where the average ticket costs £55 and £65 respectively.

Rachel Heyhoe-Flint: a pioneer in Women’s CricketRachel Heyhoe-Flint: a pioneer in Women’s Cricket
Rachel Heyhoe-Flint: a pioneer in Women’s Cricket

This begs the question, why is Lord’s so ridiculously expensive?

Cricket (the Test format in particular) is a sport steeped in an elitist history, filled with traditions, rituals and a culture often only understood by the older-white-male sector of the fanbase. While we can see the sport developing and expanding out of this tightly-gripped frame, Lord’s always feels several steps behind.

Is the reasoning for the exorbitant pricing, amidst the cost of living crisis, their way of attempting to keep hold of that superior sense of authority?

While Lord’s receives plentiful condemnation for its pricing, favouring only certain classes of individuals in these financially trying times, let us not forget that this is a ground that only allowed women to become MCC members in 1998.

Currently, Lord’s website also offers a specific page on ‘what to wear’ (including an 11-page ‘digital lookbook’ from Hawes and Curtis) for those lucky enough to afford the MCC membership - just if they weren’t clear enough before on the specific clientele for whom they cater.

It is also the place that denied India’s female captain, Diana Edulji, access to the pavilion in 1986 when her team were touring England, prompting Edulji to quip that the MCC should be renamed the MCP (male chauvinist pigs).

As the world of cricket tries to break free from the white middle-class grasps under which it finds itself, Lord’s appears to be holding on as long as it possibly can.

Keeping its average ticket price as high as £100 is a fine way of maintaining the type of audience who may often shop at Hawes and Curtis, and ensuring Test cricket remains as the most inaccessible format of cricket.

Lord’s is hosting two Test matches this summer, one ODI and a WODI as well as several matches for The Hundred.

Scrolling through their online ticket section, both Test matches will cost around £100 for a day ticket, England’s ODI against India will cost fans on average £120 for a ticket.

However, the Women’s ODI will cost, at the most, £25 for a ticket and the highest priced ticket available for The Hundred final is capped at £75 - this point is, notably, stressed by the MCC in their defence of the Lord’s Test prices.

If this doesn’t say something about the iconic ground’s attitudes towards who they wish to see at specific games, I’m not sure what does.

It is excellent to see such accessibility for the limited-overs tournament and for the women’s game, but while we praise this accessibility for one format of the game, we must not lose out by alienating another.

The Hundred tournament has been geared towards encouraging a new generation of fans into the world of cricket, a feat it has managed with tremendous success.

But as the fiery competition receives acclamation for bringing a younger audience to the sport, how can we expect them to develop an interest beyond the limited-overs format if their parents are priced out of Test cricket tickets, reserving it for the children of the wealthy few?

By pricing tickets for a single day at £160, the number of empty seats at the ground will surely continue to rise - along with the fear for Test cricket’s future.

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