Restrictions lifted off Leicestershire
Leicestershire took a giant step towards safeguarding their future with the news that the local council had lifted the restrictive covenant on their Grace Road home.
The covenant, which originally placed a value of £24,000 on the ground and restricted its use to sporting activities, was put in place in 1966 to protect the future of county cricket.
But the city council have now agreed that such restrictions were endangering Leicestershire's sustainability by preventing the club opening new revenue streams to help supplement their cricketing income. The ground's current worth, anticipated to be somewhere around £3 million, can also be utilised by the club now should they require to borrow against its value.
Leicestershire are now pressing ahead with a planning application to build 14 apartments on a parcel of land to the edge of the property and are hopeful of receiving a grant of up to £1 million from the ECB to develop other community projects.
"When this covenant was drawn up, its purpose was to protect the future of county cricket in the city," the City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said. "But, ironically, it's now having the opposite effect.
"Having looked at the cricket club's situation, we can see that these restrictions are now preventing the club from attracting new investment and improving the facilities it offers to the local community.
"By lifting the covenant, and giving the club the security it's been lacking, we hope that the board will be able to access new funding - and be able to progress their ideas for a range of new development opportunities."
The club recently reported a loss of £66,000 for the last 12 months, while their hopes of building a new arena within the ground to house the city's basketball team fell through.
"We've been trying to remove this covenant for the last 25 years, so this is fantastic news," Leicestershire's chief executive Mike Siddall said. "This move has secured the future of county cricket in Leicester by giving us the freedom to seek new investment in our ground, in the club and in our cricket-led community projects.
"It will unlock many new funding streams for the club - primarily from the England and Wales Cricket Board, which has already earmarked £1 million for Leicestershire.
"This is a very important day for all of us at LCCC - and we're delighted that the city council has recognised that the covenant is no longer fit for purpose and has decided to lift the restrictions that have been holding us back."
While Leicestershire finished bottom of the Championship without a win in 2013, there are three players (Stuart Broad, Luke Wright and Harry Gurney) in the current England squad in the Caribbean who developed, in part at least, through the club's system.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo