The ECB would like to place on record a tribute to Don Robson, who played a leading role in the establishment of Durham as the 18th first-class county, and in taking regular international cricket to the north-east.
Robson, who was the chairman when Durham received first-class status in December 1990 having led the substantial fundraising drive necessary to achieve it, has died at the age of 82.
Gordon Hollins, the ECB’s Chief Operating Officer who knew Don Robson well from his time as commercial director at Durham, said: “Don played a leading role in gaining first-class status for Durham prior to their inaugural season at the top table in 1992.
“The North East was going through a really tough time economically and Don’s efforts therefore didn’t just help cricket, they also helped the region regain some pride.
“The success of Durham on the field, the development of several England players and the staging of international cricket at the Emirates Riverside are all achievements that would not have been possible without Don’s contribution
“Don was equally committed to the recreational game – I would often see him watching Greenside CC play in the Tyneside & Northumberland league on a Saturday afternoon.”
Robson had become involved in cricket when Durham were England’s dominant minor county through the 1970s and ‘80s, managing the Under-19 team for a while and serving on several committees for the then Test and County Cricket Board.
Sorry to hear about the passing of one of the most influential men in the history of Durham Cricket. Don Robson, thank you #legacy
— Paul Collingwood (@Colly622) March 11, 2016
Equally importantly, as the leader of Durham County Council and a prominent member of the regional assembly, he had the local influence to tap the necessary revenue streams – including £700,000 from Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.
On 19 April 1992, 100 years since the formation of the Durham County Cricket Club, they played their first match as a first-class county – even if the Sunday League fixture against Lancashire at the city’s picturesque Racecourse Ground was not a first-class match. Ian Botham and Wayne Larkins opened the batting – and Durham won.
Equally significantly, Durham had already secured planning permission from Michael Heseltine for a new ground on the outskirts of Chester-le-Street, adjoining the River Wear and in the shadow of Lumley Castle.
“We were very, very lucky with the ground,” Robson recalled in an interview for the Newcastle Journal in 2012. “We were approached by a farmer in Chester-le-Street who said he wanted to stop his lease because it was too wet for him. Whoever is up there was looking after us.
“We had a huge piece of land and we could feed into it and protect the castle. I was quite convinced Lumley Castle would be the focal point.”
The Riverside, as the ground was named – and has been renamed, with an Emirates prefix, ahead of the 2016 season – staged first-class cricket for the first time on 18 May, 1995 with a County Championship match against Warwickshire. Fittingly, the pavilion was named after Robson.
In addition to the Tests – the most recent of which saw England clinch the Ashes in 2013 after a devastating spell by Stuart Broad – it has staged 21 one-day internationals (including two World Cup fixtures in 1999) and three men’s international T20s.