Leics announce profit but debt remains cause for concern
Leicestershire have reported an increased turnover for 2015 and a small profit - compared with a loss of £225,000 last year - but the auditors of the club's accounts have warned of a level of debt that could threaten their future viability.
Last season saw Leicestershire win their first Championship game since 2012 amid renewed optimism at the arrival of Wasim Khan as chief executive. While income increased by more than £600,000 (largely down to a bigger ECB grant) and the club recorded a surplus of £4315, the club's "net liability" stood at almost £350,000.
In Leicestershire's annual report, independent auditors Grant Thornton UK have noted the club's reliance on a bank overdraft arrangement with "no specific renewal date", the withdrawal of which could threaten their ability to continue as a business.
"These conditions, along with the other matters explained in note 1 to the financial statements, indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the Club's ability to continue as a going concern," said the report.
Leicestershire's accounts for 2014, when the club's debts were around £300,000, contained a similar note. The lifting of a covenant on Grace Road in the same year does, however, give the county greater security, with the ground valued at £3.65m, and Khan was confident that progress is being made.
"Leicestershire County Cricket Club has had an excellent financial year," Khan said. "While accepting that it is a challenge when ECB funding makes up a significant amount of our revenue streams, these challenges are widely faced around the county circuit.
"The lifting of the covenant on the ground has given us financial security and, comparatively, our liabilities are pretty low. We have no medium to long term debt that needs servicing and the bank overdraft facility, which is part of our net current liabilities, is used purely for operational purposes as and when required.
"Our accounts show a significant turnaround from a deficit of £225,153 in 2014 to a surplus of £4315 in 2015 and our current cash flow is as strong as it has been in five years. Notice of a Special General Meeting has been given purely in relation to the club rules. It is not related to the publication of our financial performance in the last year."
Khan recently referred to Leicestershire's precarious position during the process to secure planning permission for floodlights at Grace Road, saying if the club could not run as a sustainable business "we might not be here in five years' time".
Earlier this month, Leicestershire secured approval for floodlights, which will enable them to play NatWest T20 Blast fixtures in the evening. The development's significance is reflected by the fact match receipts actually fell in 2015 - largely due to income from an India tour game the year before - at a time when T20 on Friday nights has become in increasingly important revenue stream for counties.
Another boost to the club's financial position came on Friday, with the announcement of a five-year naming rights agreement for Grace Road with local company Fischer Future Heat - the first time in the ground's 137-year history that it will carry the name of a sponsor.
"The club had an excellent commercial year in 2015 and further major developments have been announced," Khan said. "Planning permission has been gained for the installation of floodlights, which will allow us to start NatWest T20 Blast fixtures at a later time and help us to build on encouraging figures for 2015. A 48% increase in our NatWest T20 Blast attendances was bettered only by Yorkshire.
"Leicestershire County Cricket Club also signed a five-year deal with Fischer Future Heat, who became our first ever official ground naming rights partner on Friday. Elton John is also set to perform at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road on June 11 and that will have a hugely positive impact on the city of Leicester as well as the club."
The club's annual report has been sent to members and a Special General Meeting has been called alongside the Annual General Meeting for February 24.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick