County news March 28, 2012

Essex warn of trying times ahead

Essex returned to profit in 2011, but they have warned that trying times lie ahead. The club declared a profit of £333,368 for the year ending 31 December 2011, compared to a loss of £22,585 for the same period in 2010.

Despite a disappointing year on the pitch - they struggled on their return to Division Two of the Championship, finishing 7th, and failed to progress beyond the group stages of either of the limited-overs competitions - Essex were rewarded, along with most other counties, with a large ECB payment for ensuring their ground has been developed to the required standards.

However, Essex say they are more reliant upon gate income from their home Friends Life t20 matches than any other county and fear that this year's reduction from eight home games to five will hit them hard. They are also investing an extra £100,000 into the squad this season in order to improve their on-field fortunes.

"Our significant profit of £333,000 reflects a small operating profit of £13,000 supplemented by £300,000 of exceptional income from the ECB," the club's treasurer, Keith Brown, said. "The exceptional income is in respect of maintaining our ground to a specific standard and has been set aside to meet anticipated expenditure in the future.

"We maintained our contribution from membership but match income was down. Our income from one-day games is 89% of gate income. Our reliance on Twenty20 income is greater than any other county and with the reduction in home games from eight to five in 2012 this represents a real challenge to our income.

Nigel Hilliard, the club's chairman said: "Last year's failure in all competitions was especially disappointing as we appeared, on paper at least, to have an excellent squad. Unfortunately our performances on grass were not impressive and while we continue to be victims of our own success by producing players for England and the IPL, members have been used to better performances.

"The club's main aspiration is to still be successful in the county championship. We do accept that our present group of players are more suited to the shorter formats of the game and it was therefore disappointing that last year results went against us in the limited-over matches as well as the Championship."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo