Roger Hutton says he is “thrilled to pieces” with his appointment as Yorkshire’s new chair and insists the future is extremely bright at Emerald Headingley.
Hutton is only too aware that there will be challenges thrust upon the county and the game and in general as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, but he is confident they will be managed effectively.
He has praised the work of both the current and past regimes at Emerald Headingley and believes two key areas for progression are success on the field and continuing to attract major international matches such as Ashes Test Matches.
A joint managing partner at Leeds-based Clarion Solicitors, Hutton was introduced to the White Rose county by his late father Robin – a second cousin of the legendary Len – in the early seventies and counts David Bairstow as his cricketing hero.
“My first memory of watching cricket was my mum and dad taking me to Headingley in I think 1972 when I was six-years-old,” he recalled.
“It was the Roses game and Yorkshire suffered a terrible collapse.
“I think they were 30-3 and then about 90 all out. I was asking my dad whether it was a good score because I didn’t understand, and he was particularly grumpy with me. It was a pretty robust introduction to the game if I’m honest.
The great Len Hutton batting for Yorkshire
“My dad was Len Hutton’s second cousin. My dad taught in a school in Pudsey, the same one where Len was as a boy.
“Dad used to drive him to Test Matches from time to time.
“On my shelves at home, there are signed photos of Len and signed autobiographies, stuff like that. Unfortunately, I inherited non of his skills!
“The team of the early seventies was the one I grew up with, and my undoubted hero was David Bairstow. I loved him to pieces.
“He had a lot of passion and energy and would do whatever he could to win. He was exhilarating to watch.”
Hutton succeeds Robin Smith as Yorkshire’s new chair. He was appointed on Friday, and his tenure began immediately.
“I’ve been steeped in the game for as long as I can remember,” he said. “And I’m absolutely thrilled to pieces. Obviously the timing is disappointing given what we’re going through, but outside of that I’m thrilled.”
So where does he see Yorkshire’s current position in terms of its growth as a county and business?
He continued: “If you had been asking me this question four to six weeks ago, I would have said, ‘We’ve got a sensational stadium, a great executive team and staff in general, we’ve assembled a brilliant squad for the year, and we’ve just had the best financial year going’.
“At that stage, thinking what have I got to do and what have I not got to do, it would have been a case of, ‘Just don’t mess it up’.
Man of the Match Ben Stokes and Mark Arthur
“There are obviously challenges which have been thrown upon us, but we have to stay positive.
“I think there is a strong chance there will be some cricket played in Yorkshire before the year is out. I just hope that’s sooner rather than later.
“Mark Arthur and his team, along with previous boards, have organised the club in a very impressive way, meaning we are in a strong position. It’s run with a fairly lean team behind the scenes who are very effective.
“We’ve also developed one of the best facilities outside of London for international cricket.
“When you compare that with many other clubs, Yorkshire are in an incredibly strong position. You have to have that in your head.
“Then, you have got to think that Mark Arthur has developed a great relationship with the ECB, therefore he will undoubtedly be pushing Yorkshire’s cause as hard as anyone can do. And I will be supporting that.
“With those two things in mind, we have a strong platform.
“But patience is going to be needed because, let’s be honest about it, there is a serious setback in the form of a nasty virus going around killing people. And you don’t want to be pushing things irresponsibly to endanger lives.
“Tom Harrison (chief executive) at the ECB is doing a really good job liaising with the government, and they will tell us what we can and can’t do cricket wise. When we know that, we can then bring cricket back to Emerald Headingley.”
Hutton will work alongside former Yorkshire all-rounder Neil Hartley, who has been appointed vice chairman.
“We’ve got really lucky,” he said.
“I’ve known Neil through business circles for a number of years, and he’s a really nice guy. In fact, I was laughing with him the other day because I’ve got his autograph in a book somewhere.
“He’s got a great knowledge of the game. He knows exactly what it’s like to be a player and has a really good understanding of the cricket played right across the county recreationally.
“He will be a great ambassador, and his skills fit really nicely where mine are lacking.”
Hutton’s Clarion business has Yorkshire Cricket links. In 2016, they were the principal sponsors of the Yorkshire Diamonds women, who played in the first season of the Kia Super League.
Yorkshire and England's Katherine Brunt
Women’s cricket has seen a significant amount of positive change since then, and Hutton insists that will continue – with Yorkshire very much at the heart of things.
“If you look at cricket as a whole, one of the challenges is to increase and widen the demographic that watches it – both age and gender wise – and also widen the demographic that plays,” he said.
“The most obvious way of doing that is encouraging the involvement of women, and that’s something we are very keen on within Yorkshire.
“The Diamonds has been a big part of that, and in the next 10 years I think that will only increase.”
Only last month, White Rose chief executive Arthur spoke about his vision for the future, including trying to secure another Ashes Test Match at Emerald Headingley in 2027 to follow the ones in 2019 and 2023. Another target is to host the Hundred Finals Day in the near future.
He also spoke with great enthusiasm about Yorkshire’s chances of silverware, with Hutton echoing those views.
The new chairman added: “There is no doubt that Yorkshire attracting a high quality of international matches is key to the club’s future.
“Previous boards and Mark have done incredibly well with that, and there is a desire to continue with that theme.
“As ever, though, to every fan and member – and I am both of those – the most important thing is getting players out on the pitch and winning games and trophies for Yorkshire. That’s the thing we are concentrating on right now.
“Martyn Moxon and the coaching staff have assembled a great squad and were confident of challenging for every competition going. There’s no suggestion of prioritising one competition over another. The ambition is to win everything as and when we’re allowed to get out there on the field.”