Electricity and gas supplier Utilita Energy has acquired naming rights to the home of Hampshire County Cricket Club, with ambitions to transform the stadium into the world’s greenest cricket ground.
From today (Friday), what had been known as the Ageas Bowl will now become the Utilita Bowl under a new multi-year deal. Insurance group Ageas had sponsored the stadium since 2012.
The first step in the sustainability side of the partnership will see the installation of more than 1,000 solar panels, capable of generating around 25% of the electricity used in the stadium each year, and more than enough to cover the electricity consumed during match days. The solar array at Utilita Bowl will generate 381,829kwh per year.
The solar array is projected to save the venue a six figure sum each year in electricity costs – as well as 80 tonnes of carbon per year – the same level of emissions produced by driving 301,855 miles in the average passenger vehicle.
The agreement will cover a period in the history of the venue which will see Utilita Bowl host 19 international cricket fixtures from 2025 to 2031. This includes both a men’s Ashes Test in 2027 and a women’s Ashes Test in 2031.
In addition to hosting international cricket and Hampshire games, Utilita Bowl is also a live music venue. Bill Bullen, CEO of Utilita, said: “The cheapest and greenest energy is the energy we don’t use, and that’s exactly what this partnership is designed to do – cut energy usage. This support doesn’t stop at the venue itself but is extended to the over half a million visitors who walk through its doors each year.
“We will work closely with the venue to ensure they lead the way in becoming more sustainable across all aspects of their operations: from travel and match days, to the day-to-day running of the ground and any ancillary developments. This truly is a unique, first-of-its-kind partnership in British sport.”
Commenting on the environmental impact the new partnership will have, George Walters, chief home services officer at Utilita, added: “Solar is the one of the most effective ways that a business can reduce its reliance on using electricity from the National Grid, of which around half is still generated using dirty fossil fuels.
“Solar is just the first step in enabling the venue to become net zero. This partnership will benefit from the learnings, results and innovations created by Utilita’s own journey towards becoming a net zero business by 2030 – the most ambitious target across the UK retail energy sector.”
Today’s announcement comes amid reports surrounding the ownership of Hampshire and its stadium. The club last week confirmed it is “fully engaged in some detailed negotiations” regarding investment, amid a report linking an Indian Premier League (IPL) ownership group to a takeover deal.
Hampshire’s parent company, Hampshire Sport & Leisure Holdings, also owns the Utilita Bowl, along with its hotel and surrounding golf course. It spoke out after The Telegraph said the company’s majority shareholder and chairman, Rod Bransgrove, was in advanced talks to sell his stake to GMR Group, co-owners of IPL franchise the Delhi Capitals.
Bransgrove, who oversaw Hampshire’s move to its current home outside of Southampton in 2001 and the subsequent expansion of the stadium, stepped down as the club’s chairman at the end of 2023. However, it was announced that he would remain chair of Hampshire Sport & Leisure Holdings, in which he holds more than 60% of the shares, steering the next phase of stadium development.
Commenting on today’s naming rights deal, David Mann, CEO at Utilita Bowl, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Utilita, a Hampshire based business who share our values and can now help shape our vision of creating the greenest international cricket venue in the world.
“As two organisations who already play a major role in helping to add value to our local communities through our respective foundations, together we can extend our efforts even further at a time when this help is needed more than ever. This is the dawn of a new era for the venue, and we’re excited by the possibilities this partnership will offer.”