Big Interview: Marylebone Cricket Club’s Derek Brewer

Where did you spend your formative years and what was your first career ambition?

I was brought up in Guildford and wanted to be a sports journalist. I worked in banking for 24 years but managed to be involved with the sports writing by contributing to Fulham FC’s fanzine and matchday programme in the 1990s.
 
Why did you move from banking into destination management?

I always wanted to work in sport, so when the opportunity came to succeed current ECB CEO David Collier at Notts I jumped at it. As well as running a cricket ground it was very instructive to chair Experience Nottinghamshire, the county’s tourism body, to gain a greater understanding of
a destination management organisation.

What was the best corporate banking event you ever attended?

A KPMG event some years ago featuring Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. It was amazing to be in the presence of World Cup heroes, and I still have the shirt they signed for me.
 
How did your bank source meeting venues and accommodation?

We used a lot of local venues and when I was Regional Director at NatWest we often used Trent Bridge.

When you were a Second XI cricketer at Warwickshire what were the events facilities like?

The facilities in the late 1970s compared to now are worlds apart; they bear no comparison. Then, sports grounds were not direct competitors with other venues and you could tell by the standard of facilities and, in particular, food and drink. Now people turn up to events and hospitality expecting good restaurant standard fare and decent wine.

It pays to invest in events facilities. During my time at Trent Bridge, Notts invested £1.5m on the Radcliffe Road refurbishment to upgrade the hospitality facilities. It formed a cornerstone of the successful bid for two Ashes Tests.

Lord’s took catering in-house in 2005 and the food we serve up is outstanding. It helps bring in customers that have no affiliation at all to cricket.
 
What were your best bowling figures?

The highest level I played was county Second XI; club cricket was really my level. I think I reached my peak as a 13-year-old when I took eight wickets for one run in a school match!

I have never played at Lord’s, although my office looks out onto the pitch, so I definitely need to use my position to get myself a game out on the most famous ground of all.

Best innings ever witnessed?

As both a cricket fan and then, during the last seven years, as a cricket administrator, I have been fortunate to see many fine performances. I think the one that really stands out was by the
South African batsman Hashim Amla for Notts in 2010. It was the first game of the season, the sky was grey and wicket was green and he made a brilliant century (129) on the first day. The Notts Director of Cricket, Mick Newell, uses it to educate his batsmen on how to build an innings on a difficult surface. It was a masterclass.
 
Best tea consumed at first class cricket?

As a player it would have to be Worcester – they always had the best array of cakes.

Unfortunately, I never got to play at Lord’s, otherwise I’d be likely to give here as the answer. The food the players get here is pretty legendary on both the international and county circuit. In an ideal world you’d score a century and get out just before lunch to fill your boots.

What makes a good unique venue?

Simply, to give customers something excellent that they could not get elsewhere. In the case of Lord’s, there is only one Home of Cricket, only one place you can take a tour of the ground
to see the Ashes urn before sitting down to a dinner in the Long Room.

Our meetings and events team strive to maximise all the facets of Lord’s which are unique, from the Stirling Award-winning JP Morgan Media Centre to the Grade II-listed Pavilion, to give all their customers an experience they could not receive elsewhere.
 
What were your first impressions of MCC’s events facilities at Lords?

The sheer diversity. The mix of sizes and ages means there is something for everyone. If you want traditional, go for the Pavilion. State-of-the-art or futuristic? Go for the JP Morgan Media Centre.

We have the Thomas Lord Suite that can hold conferences and the Writing Room in the Pavilion, one of the nicest venues for an intimate working lunch or dinner.

What was your first ‘stroke’ opening your new innings in charge at Lord’s?  

One project I am working on is to develop a 10-year strategic plan for the club and an area that we will consider is the balance between the interests of cricket, members and commerciality. We need to run a profitable business to plough funds back into cricket and into Lord’s, while always remembering we do exist for our members and for the game as a whole. I think we strike that balance very well and there is an element of exclusivity, such as the fact that only MCC members can get into the Pavilion during international matches.

That attracts clients on non-match days; it’s something special they want to be part of.

Where do you stand on the great ‘free’ Wi-Fi debate for delegates? Surely someone has to pick up the tab?

MCC has always offered complimentary Wi-Fi to its events customers. What our deal with the Cloud will bring is a faster speed.

Wi-Fi is such an integral part of most events that we think it’s non-negotiable if you want to offer value for money.

What keeps you awake at night?

In recent months I would say the challenge of restoring the ground to be able to host a Test Match less than a fortnight after the Olympic Archery competition ended gave me the odd sleepless night, but as a rule, nothing really keeps me awake.

At what stage are you now in building the ‘meetings and events innings’ at the venue?

The hallmark of quality for a venue is a high level of repeat business, which is something we do well, but, of course, there is always room to build on this and bring in new clients.

We brought our catering in-house in 2005 and the challenge now is not so much the standard, which we know we can do, but to ensure we continually adapt to clients’ requirements. We are introducing a BBQ summer party package from next year.

We have an outstanding team in place, led by Claire Bullock and Nick Kenton, who can take the meetings business forward.

What kind of events work well at Lord’s?

I think a dinner in the Long Room takes some beating, but we are lucky to have the space and variety to host diverse and complicated events. We have more than 21 different event spaces.

For example, we host weddings where the bride and groom get ready in the dressing rooms, the vows are taken in the Writing Room and the champagne reception is held on the Pavilion Roof Terrace before dinner in the Long Room. For a cricket lover that would be pretty much the dream way to get married.  

This was first published in the October edition of CN. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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