December 14, 2022
People & Places

A change of pace

The South Australian Cricket Association’s new CEO Charlie Hodgson has pursued his passion for the game all the way from London to Adelaide, swapping one hallowed ground for another and embracing a welcome change of pace.

The South Australian Cricket Association’s new CEO Charlie Hodgson, with wife Claire. Having relocated from London earlier in the year, the couple is fitting in well to Adelaide life, with their three young children now starting Nippers.

English cricket administrator Charlie Hodgson received an auspicious welcome to South Australian cricket back in September when he took two of his three children to watch their first women’s 50-over game at Karen Rolton Oval. It was this summer’s WNCL season-opener and the SA Scorpions were taking on a powerhouse Victoria. When it came time for the final over, the Scorpions needed an unlikely 15 runs off the remaining six balls for victory.

“It just looked like we were going to lose,” says Charlie. “But Tahlia McGrath, who also plays for Australia, was at the crease. She hit the first three balls for sixes and promptly walked off having scored her century and we’d won the game. My kids said: ‘Oh, my goodness, this is the best thing we’ve ever seen!’.”

Earlier this year, the three Hodgson children – two boys aged six and 10, and a girl, eight – needed little convincing to uproot their lives and move from Sussex to Adelaide after Charlie accepted the role as SACA’s new chief executive officer. His wife, Claire, was also up for the move to the other side of the world.

“We actually told the kids while they were watching cricket on television,” says Claire, who has also worked in the cricket world in sponsorship roles. “We said: ‘Can you just turn the TV off? We’ve got to tell you something’. They were very excited.”

Charlie was previously the managing director at Surrey County Cricket Club, based at London’s esteemed ground The Oval.

Charlie was commuting 90 minutes each way from his home in the countryside near Brighton to The Oval. The opportunity to lead SACA with Adelaide Oval as his backdrop, seemed too good to pass up.

Claire explains that if they’d decided to turn down the role, they would have always imagined, “What if?”. And the change of lifestyle has been welcomed with the couple’s children taking up cricket, Nippers and Little Athletics since arriving earlier this year.

Being one of four cricketing brothers himself, Charlie has a deep appreciation of the game. “Two of my brothers played First Class cricket in Surrey County. The Second XI team was as far as I got, but playing club cricket is what we’ve enjoyed and loved for many years,” he says.

His understanding of cricket clubs and communities makes him a good fit for SACA. Even so, stepping into the role after the much-respected Keith Bradshaw passed away in 2021 after a long and courageous battle with cancer, has been somewhat daunting.

“He was hugely loved, revered and very innovative. He is clearly missed,” says Charlie. “Adelaide has become synonymous with the pink ball Test, which Keith introduced. We’ve got the biggest membership in world cricket with 27,500 members – more than we’ve ever had. For me, it’s an amazing job to come into and I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

Having taken up the role in March, with his family following him a few months later, Charlie has already introduced some key changes to the SA cricket scene. In the offseason, he met with Premier League clubs to discuss the future of grassroots crickets and in September, announced the splitting of the men’s competition into two divisions – introducing promotion and relegation for the first time – as well as the addition of an Under-19s competition.

“It was good to go around to meet all the clubs. These changes are always emotive, but I’m glad they’ve shown the willingness to give it a try,” says Charlie.

This summer also sees the introduction of reserved members seating, made available for an additional fee. The prime reserved seats, he says, were created in response to member feedback, but were nonetheless controversial. They sold out in less than two weeks.

As a cricket fan, Charlie has great reverence for the hallowed Adelaide Oval and the historic legacy of South Australian cricket.

He also feels a responsibility to help ensure that Test cricket remains the pinnacle of the game.

“Adelaide Oval is incredible. It’s the best cricket ground in the world; certainly, the best one I’ve ever seen. Its facilities are very modern, but it’s so historic. With all the great feats that have happened here over the years – and the Hill, the Cathedral and the trees – it’s so iconic,” he says.

“I’ve found that the culture for cricket is much stronger here than in England. More often here, you see it being played in the parks and on the beach, while England has been taken over by soccer somewhat. I’ve also noticed that club cricket provides a better pathway to the professional game.

“The women’s game gets much more exposure here, as does women’s sport in general. The Aussie women’s cricket team is just phenomenal and we’ve got four of them playing in our South Australian side, so that’s exciting.”

Despite a few differences between the United Kingdom and Australia, Charlie has found the passion and love of the game to be universal, as well as the reliance on volunteers to facilitate the sport.

Charlie’s first summer at Adelaide Oval coincided with the Test Match between Australia and West Indies. It marked 30 years since the famous 1992-93 Test Match between the two countries, which the West Indies sensationally won by one run.

In that game, the future Australian Men’s cricket coach, Justin Langer, made his Test debut, with West Indian quick Curtly Ambrose named Player of the Match for his hauls of 6/74, and 4/46. Not to be outdone, was South Australian spinner Tim May’s 5/9 in the second innings, while Windies legend Brian Lara made his half century in the first innings. With the memories of that historic match swirling around the stadium, SACA hosted a member’s dinner, with appearances from cricketers who played in that historic game.

Charlie was properly initiated into South Australian cricket when he watched the first ball of the Adelaide Test, played with a pink ball no less. “I get to walk around a lot; you do some good kilometres and you run on adrenaline,” he says. “It’s exhausting by day five, but it’s great. That’s why you work in sport.”


This story first appeared in the December 2022 edition of SALIFE Magazine.

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