County news January 23, 2014

Leicestershire gloom set to deepen

ESPNcricinfo staff

Leicestershire's problems are set to intensify with the announcement of a significant loss for the 2013 financial year.

The club, which finished bottom of the Division Two County Championship table without a win in the season, have cited player salaries and the costs of maintaining their Grace Road ground as pertinent factors in the losses. Leicestershire also declared a loss of just over £250,000 for the 2012 financial year.

"We are about to announce a five-figure loss shortly, in the next two or three weeks, for the year to September 2013," the club's chief executive, Mike Siddal, told the BBC. "We have a relatively old ground which needs a lot of money spending on it in repairs and renovations. Players' salaries go up all the time and we need to invest in the team. I know it sounds a bit simple, but our costs exceed our income."

While the club's on-field form has been poor over the last couple of years - they also failed to progress from the group stages in either of the limited-overs competitions in 2013 - they do have a fine record of developing players.

Stuart Broad, Luke Wright, Harry Gurney and James Taylor are all recent examples of players who have developed in part through the club's system and gone on to interest the England selectors while Shiv Thakor and Ned Eckersley, of the current crop of players, are tipped to join them. The club's 18-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Rob Sayer is also highly regarded and currently represents the England U19 side.

But with the club losing money and failing to perform adequately on the pitch, it is inevitable that Leicestershire will be used as an example of the weakness of the county system by those who believe there are too many first-class counties. Not for the first time, they will start next season fighting to justify their existence and their ECB funding.

Leicestershire did have hopes of diversifying the use of their ground last year, which has one of the largest playing areas in first-class cricket, but plans to make use of the space by providing a home for the city's basketball team look set to fall through despite the financial backing of Sport England. While the decision is not confirmed, it seems the city council is set to back a rival bid to host the basketball team elsewhere in the city.

Plans to build a multi-purpose sport centre in Leicester went on public display a year ago. A £2.5m project on empty land at Grace Road cricket ground also involved Leicester Riders basketball team and Leicester College as well as a number of apartments and was much in keeping with ECB guidelines to finance county grounds by multiple use.