Derbyshire boosted by perfect marriage
Love is in the air at The County Ground in Derby and it is helping to secure Derbyshire's financial future. There are few more quintessentially English settings for a wedding than a cricket ground and Derbyshire have taken full advantage with 15 receptions or civil ceremonies taking place in 2011 and 24 already booked this year.
Derbyshire might be routinely derided as one of the weaker first-class counties but they are in better financial health than many, recording their fifth profit in six years as they announced a surplus of £20,211 for 2011.
Wedding guests are even encouraged to hold their functions while a Championship match is in progress, although no statistics are available to show whether a blushing bride has ever felt overshadowed by the beauty of a Wes Durston cover drive.
Derbyshire, who lost £187,037 in 2010, have continued a general trend of improved county financial results despite the economic downturn, an improved financial picture that is influenced to some degree by an additional grant from the ECB this year of up to £300,000 this year towards ground improvements.
Nevertheless, Derbyshire have reduced their financial dependency on the annual ECB handout from 71% to 50% in three years to contradict their reputation as one of the county game's ailing counties.
Recent ground investments include the addition of a permanent marquee, a 1,800-seater stand and the turning of the playing square through 90 degrees so that floodlit matches are no longer disruoted by the setting sun. And if you imagine the ground is normally empty, Friends Life t20 attendances increased in 2011 by 33%, from a low base perhaps but the highest percentage increase among the 18 counties.
Keith Loring, the chief executive, said: "In many ways a small profit of around £20,000 is the perfect result for the club because it demonstrates that we have maximised our spending on the team whilst running a profitable business.
Derbyshire have also gained financially by reducing their reliance on non-qualified England players, so benefiting from the ECB's performance-related payments. They plan to field a maximum of three non-qualified players in 2012 and two, the new captain Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes, have plans to become English qualified.
Derbyshire's improved financial position came despite a troubled season on the field in 2011, with the former head of cricket, John Morris, sacked in mid-season after concerted criticism from his players, and the captain, Luke Sutton, retiring from first-class cricket after admitting that he had been treated for depression and anxiety.
Fifteen first-class counties posted a loss in 2010 with debts among the nine Test match counties estimated at close to £100m.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo