Yorkshire in profit but face Boycott rumble
Yorkshire have returned to profit for the first time since 2009, as the club's on-field success was matched by an improved financial position. The positive news threatens to be overshadowed, however, by a disagreement with Geoff Boycott over his desire to rejoin the Yorkshire board.
According to the Yorkshire Post, Boycott has gathered the necessary support to be stand for election at the forthcoming AGM but the club is resistant to a "destabilising" bid from the former England batsman.
Boycott is understood to be concerned about a decline in membership, as well as the club's level of debt, which stands at around £22m. However, Yorkshire chairman Steve Denison has written to members setting out reasons for opposing Boycott's return - he served on the board between 2007 and 2012 and was elected president for 2012-13.
These include the fact that Yorkshire subsequently won the Championship in 2014 and 2015 - having suffered relegation in 2011 - during which time there has been a clear operational divide between the board and team management. Denison said it would be "counter-productive to disrupt things now".
Boycott, a legendary figure around the club, has been offered a role as "global ambassador" but there remains the possibility of a clash reminiscent of the infamous 1980s struggles between Yorkshire and their star player ahead of the March 26 AGM.
One of Boycott's concerns has been the amount of money owed to former chairman Colin Graves and he has called on the club "to start living within our own means". Graves, who saved Yorkshire from bankruptcy, is now chairman of the ECB and loans worth £18.9m have been divested into the independent Graves family trust.
The announcement of a £368,000 profit for 2015 should go some way to easing concerns about the club's financial position. That represents a significant turnaround from their 2014 losses and will encourage hopes that Yorkshire can be run as a sustainable business post-Graves.
Denison described the surplus as a "significant milestone" but warned the club's debt is likely to rise as it seeks to fund a rebuilt Football Stand at Headingley. Development of the ground is considered vital to maintaining its status as an international venue after Yorkshire's staging agreement with the ECB runs out in 2019.
Yorkshire's income rose from £7.3m to £8.4m in 2015, with their continued supply of players to the England sides - including Test debuts for Adam Lyth and Adil Rashid - leading to increased ECB funding. That led to a rise in the club's wage bill, with a bigger squad required to cover for absences.
The club also agreed a loan repayment with Leeds City Council, which accepted £6.5m in settlement of the £7.4m capital outstanding. The restructuring of Yorkshire's debts mean that annual interest has been reduced by £300,000 and there are no scheduled capital repayments until 2019.
"We have made further progress in 2015 and to report an annual profit for the first time since 2009 is a significant step forward," Paul Hudson, Yorkshire's director of finance, said. "It is gratifying that turnover in all areas has increased consistently over the past three years and we expect this trend to continue in 2016.
"The successful completion of the club's refinancing was a watershed and we are confident that the existing debt is now at a manageable level. The club is in a stronger financial position than it has been at any time in recent years."