Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Clouds gather over County Cricket.

Leicestershire recorded a record loss of £404,862 at the end of their traumatic 2010 season, offering further evidence of the serious financial problems affecting the majority of county cricket clubs. The county have been left with net current liabilities of £233,717, prompting their auditors Thomas May & Co to note that "these conditions ... indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast doubt about the club's ability to continue as a going concern".

However Mike Siddall, whose position as acting chief executive was confirmed in October following the resignation of Neil Davidson as chairman, said Leicestershire have already taken steps to improve their financial performance in 2011. That is likely to mean they do not employ a second overseas player for the Friends Provident Twenty20 competition, as they aim to restrict wages that increased by more than £230,000 last year.

Paul Haywood, who has succeeded Davidson as chairman, wrote in his notes to members in the county's annual report: "In almost every category of income, the forecast budget has not been achieved and, in most categories of costs, the budgets have been exceeded."

Cricket, and County Cricket at that, is not beyond what we have seen in football of recent, as sides are wound up due to a basic of "not paying the bills" It is naive for cricket and its followers to think it is beyond such a grim reaper just because they are a county and not a city. The continued over payment of overseas players who's sole purpose is a 4 week holiday during the T20's is not cost effective.

The ECB either needs to turn away from overseas players or begin to resrict clubs to a single player for the season, rather than a selection of games. Player contracts are not the only things killing clubs, the requirement on Test Cricket selection and multi-purpose buildings has seen counties spending millions of ££'s trying to recoup money by any means possible. This is leading to clubs still being in debt, Lancshire CC and the mighty Red Post Box Pavillion, along with a lack of Test cricket has left the club with a £546,000 red hole. Yorkshire too have a loan of £21 millon for which it has already had to defer payments of £3m to Leeds Metro University. Where are these clubs planning on making any of this money back? Weddings? Business Lunches? Meat Raffles?

Cricket is forgetting its roots of quality, affordable entertainment. Pushing itself closer to it's winter cousin football in regards to over inflated ticket prices, as seen in the lack of attendance at the Pakistan tour while in Warwickshire. The need for stadia and sports teams to branch out into other revenue streams to help off-set the costs of cricket is vital, but at what cost? If the value of such building projects could leave a building and no club, the price is too high.

Likewise, we as cricketers and cricket watchers need to back our counties with our attendance and support, regardless if they have invested in a prize pony for the T20 series, as an Australian I encourage the ECB to back its own players by releasing them back to counties whenever possible, and to use the phrase associated with the supermarket shopping "Buy British."

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