Marylebone Cricket Club lumbers slowly into 21st century

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The Independent Online

Makeovers and re-branding have been all the rage for the last few years and just as they seem to be going out of fashion - the Post Office is dropping "Consignia", television companies are dropping garden and home transformation shows - so the Marylebone Cricket Club lumbers creakily into the 21st Century.

It may be trailing behind the trendies but at least it is changing. Typically for an institution which prides itself on discretion and decorum, it has happened without too much fanfare. But finally, some 216 years after its foundation, the MCC is trying to become consumer-friendly.

It is a radical change that is attempting to broaden its public image. Cricket supporters, who are not MCC members, entering the ground in St John's Wood are no longer confronted with signs bearing the MCC logo. All they see instead is the new brand, Lord's. And even that word has been brought up to speed with a design that leaves the initial letter L sporting three stumps for the upright.

It is all part of an operation by a club, renowned for its exclusivity and its garish red and yellow colours, that is intended to make the public more aware of its accessibility.

Ian Wilton, MCC's head of communications, said: "We conducted a survey and the results of that, as well as first-hand experience over the years, revealed that many people believed that they could not use any of the facilities at Lord's because they were labelled, for example the MCC Museum and the MCC Shop, and that any facility such as these were for the exclusive use of MCC members.

"That is not the case. The MCC indoor school, for example, is available to members of the public." Wilton also revealed that one of the regulars in the gym is Sir Paul McCartney, who is not an MCC member, but is a local resident.

So it was decided to create a more inclusive logo and Lord's is it. A special Lord's tie has been designed. In the past the people were unable to purchase certain specific products sporting the club colours unless they could show proof of MCC membership and that limited the range of items they could take away as souvenirs. It also limited the commercial potential for MCC. Now, having reinvented itself, it can take advantage of merchandising, while at the same time broadening its appeal and losing some of the dustiness that has gathered over the last couple of centuries.

But it does not stop there. Wilton and his team want to make the visiting public more aware of the historical perspective of the ground and remind everyone of some of the memorable cricketing feats. To that end, the outer perimeter of the stands carries large images of great players and their great deeds, and all the Test playing nations (with the exception of Bangladesh, who have yet to play a Test at the game's headquarters) are included in the exhibition. As makeovers go it is hardly a Carol Smillie or a Charlie Dimmock job, but at least this behemoth of an institution is trying.