County news January 14, 2013

Northants emerge in profit from wet summer

Northamptonshire have credited a raft of cost-cutting measures after declaring a profit of £22,900 despite testing conditions in their last year of trading.

Despite poor weather, poor results, a poor schedule and competing attractions such as the London Olympics and the European Football Championships, leading to a drop in revenue, Northants found like-for-like savings of around £475,000 to remain in the black for the year up to September 30 2012. Similar size clubs such as Leicestershire and Kent are expected to declare losses.

Northamptonshire endured a grim year on the pitch. The weather robbed them of 52 hours of cricket at Wantage Road and the team struggled in all competitions. Northants won fewer games than any side in all three competitions, with just one victory in the Friends Life T20, one victory in the CB40 competition and two in Division Two of the County Championship. David Capel, the club's director of cricket, was sacked at the start of July while a group of senior players - Chaminda Vaas, Jack Brooks, Rob White and Niall O'Brien - also left.

"The profit was achieved despite a decrease in turnover from the previous year, which had included a one off ground development ECB payment, a very successful tourist game against India and an Elton John concert, so comparisons are very difficult," Northants chief executive David Smith said.

"2013 promises to offer better commercial opportunities with the club entertaining Australia for a two day game on August 15 and 16. The T20 schedule looks more favourable and we are hoping to announce summer music concert dates shortly for both June and September."

While Northants currently benefit from ECB reward payments for their role in the development of England players Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann - the payments are expected to exceed £100,000 in 2013 - there is an acceptance that more top players need to be produced if the club is to justify the ECB funding it receives of around £1.9m a year. The club have two players in the England U19 squad - Ben Duckett and Olly Stone - and expect wicketkeeper/batsman Duckett to be challenging for a first team place once he leaves school in June.

"A core group of home-grown players, with a sense of who and what they represent, alongside good senior role-model cricketers, with a quality overseas player, is still, we believe, the best way to bring success to the cricket club," Smith continued.

The club also hope that the improved outdoor practice facilities will encourage more international teams to use the ground as a base and that a substantial investment in improved banqueting and conference facilities will encourage more local people into the ground on a regular basis. The plan is to increase revenue from just over £3m to between £4m and £4.5m over the next few years. There are also plans to improve the media facilities.

It is also anticipated that changes to the fixture schedule to be implemented in 2014 will help. Most domestic T20 games will be played on Friday nights, allowing sensible spacing and predictability for spectators. Northants hosted three T20 games in five days in 2012. The club has also offered free junior membership for 2013 in the hope of attracting a new generation of supporters.

In the short-term the club hope that improved form in white ball cricket will increase spectator numbers. They are optimistic about securing South African Rory Kleinveldt and Australian Jackson Bird as overseas players for eight or nine Championship matches apiece but look likely to be disappointed in their hope of signing Michael Hussey for the FLt20. Northants have already signed Steven Crook and Matthew Spriegel for 2013 and they will be among the squad departing for an 11-day pre-season tour of Barbados in March.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    I am quickly coming round to David Smith's clear vision for the county. Although with a squad which is actually weaker than 2012 it may mean another year of difficulty in 2013 the focus in shifting to promoting promising younger players into the first team does at least serve as a platform for 2014 and beyond. You never know there could be a few surprises along the way!

    As much as it is Northants duty to develop and produce the England players of the future it is also within their remit to further the interest and supporter base of cricket in general in the region. By providing free junior memberships this is certainly a move in the right direction. I continually argue against the mergers and franchise schemes dreamt up because it would lose these cricketing hubs and deny thousands from watching professional cricket on a regular and local basis.

  • Simon on January 14, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    Achieving a profit, however it is done, is the only way to ward off the idea of mergers (and extinction). I like the idea of the club having local players (much like county cricket once was) - a sense of identity which was sorely lost under Wessels has been regained and potentially (although unlikely due to the extra obstacles of being at a smaller county) players may be provided for the national side, once they`ve moved to Notts, Surrey, Yorks etc. Keeping financially afloat is the only way to survive - Northants can`t have handouts whilst not providing players for England either, but some of the current crop do have ability and good potential. Not sure what the future is for non-test ground counties, as I can`t ever see Northants getting that elusive County Championship (even Division 2!).

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