County news March 24, 2016

Ailing Northants propose change of ownership

Northants faces a worrying time with the prospect of new owners © Getty Images

Ailing Northamptonshire are aiming to raise a minimum of £1m by offering the chance of group equity investment to buy the county cricket club.

Northants announced losses of £449,127 after tax earlier this month - a deterioration of some £144,000 from the previous year - with gross turnover also down and membership falling.

The size of the deficit was a surprise in what was generally a highly successful year for county clubs bouyed by a payout from an Ashes summer and rising T20 attendances.

Only a few days ago, the club's chairman, Gavin Warren, said Northants was in a "strong position". Such assurances sounded hollow after the club issued a statement on Thursday evening, saying: "While the current cash-flow situation has been stabilised - and the club is embarking on the new season with confidence - it doesn't provide the long-term financial security that the club requires to prosper and grow."

While it recently emerged that the club had invested in plans for a new ground on the outskirts of town - a claim published by ESPNcricinfo and originally denied by the club management, many of whom have a background in property development - the board insist that they have no intention of moving from Wantage Road and that legal provision will be made to prevent development of the site for any non-cricket purpose.

Northamptonshire say they hope to be able to bring in 10 to 15 major investors, most of whom they say already have links to the club as supporters and benefactors, to provide some £50,000 each to allow for a reduction in the short-term debt and give additional working capital.

Current directors, some of whom have loaned funds to the county at commercial rates of interest, would be able to transfer those loans into shares.

They also intend to offer existing members of the county cricket club the opportunity to buy shares, with a minimum subscription of £250. Under the proposals, members would also elect a director on the new board.

"The proposal is to allow 10 to 15 major investors to provide a minimum of £50,000 each," a statement read.

"Existing members will also have the opportunity to buy shares with a minimum subscription of £250.

"A new limited company will be formed which would become the owner of Northants, subject to the consent of current members.

"It is expected that the current board of directors will remain in place to ensure continuity and a smooth handover."

An emergency general meeting is expected to be convened "within the next few months" with the aim of forming a new limited company to own the club.

It remains to be seen if Northants members will accept the proposal and if they will regard the legal protection foir cricket at Wantage Road as strong enough once further details are released.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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