ONE of the most senior figures in English cricket has backed ambitious plans to develop a new training ground in the North-East.

Last month, Durham County Cricket Club revealed plans to create a new nursery training ground close to the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground in Chester-le-Street where talented young players can hone their skills.

Now Gordon Hollins, recently-appointed chief operating officer of the England and Wales Cricket Board, has thrown his weight behind the First Class Futures campaign.

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The campaign, backed by The Northern Echo, aims to raise £100,000 to develop the facility for use by community groups and the club’s youth and women’s teams.

Mr Hollins said: “ECB is delighted to be supporting this joint initiative which will undoubtedly help encourage more people to take up the sport in the North-East and be of lasting value to the local cricket community.

“Club grounds are often oversubscribed during evenings and weekends so this is a great way to meet the demand from local teams and players for high quality training facilities – and give them the opportunity to train in the same environment as professional cricketers."

He added: “More than 900,000 people played cricket last year at grassroots level but it’s vital that we nurture the next generation of cricketing talent and innovative schemes like this can only help boost participation in the sport still further.

“We would urge as many people as possible to get behind this campaign and play their part in delivering a fantastic new cricket facility for the North-East.”

Durham County Cricket Club hopes that the development of a training facility will encourage more youngsters to get into cricket and believes it could help boost the women’s game in the region.

Chief executive David Harker said: “First Class Futures really will bring huge benefits to the North East if it is able to realise its vision of raising £100,000.

“We know from speaking to local clubs that they face challenges to find a place that they can regularly practice and women in particular struggle.

“In providing a ground that can be used by the local community, we are sure that we can produce more and more talented cricketers and enable more people to participate in sport , which can only be a good thing for the area.

“It’s a hugely worthwhile initiative, and one that I hope people get behind.”