“A PART of Lord’s” is up for grabs. All for the price of £500. And you have David Gower and a unique crowd-funded property ownership model to sweeten the deal. In reality, the piece of land up for grabs is the tunnels underneath the Nursery End at the famous cricket ground. They had been bought by property developer Charles Rifkind in 1999 when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which calls Lord’s home, had a chance to retain it in an auction but failed. The MCC has since rented the top 18 inches of the surface from Rifkind which has been the subject of a lot of negotiations over the past 19 years.
And it was the MCC members’ vote against Rifkind’s idea of developing two blocks of luxury residential flats on the Nursery Ground, behind the spaceship-shaped media centre, that led to him and his new partners New Commonwealth, chaired by Gower, deciding to spread the ownership of their land around the world.
“The idea is that as the title deed to this ground describes it as “a part of Lord’s Cricket Ground”, we are within our rights to offer a part of a part of Lord’s. Each share which is being described as a token, because there will be a physical token as well as a Blockchain token, will operate in exactly the same way as any share in any major company,” Gower, a former England captain, explains. Each “co-owner” of the Lord’s turf will have a physical Royal Mint token, which will be their “proof” in addition to the share that Gower informs will be “transferable, saleable and inheritable”.
Talks of the new development were based on a document called the Vision for Lord’s drawn out in 2006 in collaboration between the club and Rifkind. However, the traditionalist MCC members took a stand to retain what they saw as one of the old-school charms of the venue and instead wanted to go ahead with their own “masterplan” which called not only for the refurbishing of the Compton & Edrich Stands and “grassing over” the part of the Nursery Ground which is presently used as a makeshift banquet and function facility.
In Gower’s opinion, the MCC had missed out on a great opportunity to be part of a joint venture, share the profits, which could have been anything near 100-150 million GBP.
“In 10 years’ time, they are likely to be paying over half a million pounds per annum just so that a couple of fielders can stand at deep mid-wicket and deep square-leg. And that might not be seen as great value for money when their annual income at the moment is 8 or 9 million pounds from all activities,” he says.
Gower, though, is prudent in saying that the chances of development happening on the Nursery Ground are “low” and therefore the token should be taken for now at “face value” and not as a “genuine investment”. He also insists on referring to last September’s vote against the development as not having been a “fair fight” and reveals that Rifkind subsequently wanted to “step away”.
“I was a supporter of what was proposed there, which is my democratic right, and entirely an opinion formed by looking at the opportunities independently. I wasn’t coerced or influenced. The club is likely to be resistant towards our idea and their lease runs till the year 2137 but we want to be ‘good neighbours’,” he says.
Gower says some of the stands have aged and need to be redeveloped.
“It’s the wall that you see when you come out of St John’s Wood tube station and walk towards Lord’s. The excitement builds as you get close to the Grace Gates and you make your way into the ground. The flats would have improved the vista. That would have done something to make the whole place look bigger, better, sharper and more welcoming and interesting,” he says.
The MCC’s conservative approach, and Gower agrees with this analogy, perhaps is akin to that of England’s ODI team till two years ago, when they seemed behind the rest of the world. And he fears the time is fast approaching where Lord’s needs to regain its rightful position as the preeminent home of cricket. “Now their ODI side is No.1 in the rankings and hoping eventually it might win its first World Cup next year. Lord’s is a great ground with history and a lot of other good things going for it. But it might just be slipping down the rankings unless you get some things done.”
The Fine Print
What’s up for sale?
A “part of a part of Lord’s” for 500 GBP, which makes you a “token” co-owner of the home of cricket. You even get a Royal Mint token to show for it. You also own a Blockchain share, registered on the London Block Exchange, which can eventually be transferred, sold and inherited.
What is it that you really own?
It refers to the unused tunnels underneath the Nursery End at Lord’s which were bought by property developer Charles Rifkind in 1999. The top 18 inches of the area have been rented by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) for the last 19 years. Rifkind had plans to develop two blocks of luxury flats in collaboration with the MCC but the club members voted against development last September.
What role does David Gower play?
Former England captain is the chairman of New Commonwealth, a new consortium, that came up with this plan. Gower, who insists on being a fan of Lord’s and is a MCC member himself, but believes that the legendary venue can do with “improvement to its facilities and refurbishment to the fabric of the ground”.