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June 28, 2010
Durham County Cricket Club has posted profits of almost £200,000 for the last financial year. With the club having secured an Ashes Test in 2013, and a landmark six-year sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines signed, the underlying financial picture at Durham is encouraging.
Their position is in stark contrast to a county like Essex, which recorded a loss of £216,000 for 2009. With Surrey - who have a long-term match staging deal with the ECB - having announced a profit of £752,000 for the same year, it is evident that a split is starting to appear in the county game - largely between those with Test grounds and the other, smaller, venues.
"Revenue from international cricket is, in the medium term, essential to all of the Category A venues of which the recently renamed Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground is one," said David Harker, Durham's chief executive.
"We are now seeing a recurring pattern where even the bigger, major city centre venues are losing between £500,000 and £1,000,000 in years without midsummer Test Matches. This situation is only sustainable if clubs are able to retain sufficient income from Test Matches in order to fund the costs of running such major venues in the lean years."
Chester -le-Street hosted a Test match against West Indies in May 2009 - the second time the team has played a Test there in three years - but due to the early season start and poor weather, the event yielded lower than expected income.
However, the match still returned a small profit for the club, as did the well-attended one-day international against Australia in September of that year. Before the Ashes Test in 2013, Durham will host other international fixtures, including an ODI between England and Pakistan later this year.
"Durham, with a commercial debt of £3.5m, does not have the debt levels of many other venues, which for a number of clubs is reportedly between £8m and £19m. I am pleased however that the ECB recognises the problem and that there is currently a lot of work going on within the game to address the issue of major match allocation."
The current ECB process is that grounds that aren't given long-term staging agreements have to bid against each other to host Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20s. In order to secure big matches, many counties are engaged in re-development projects. Lancashire announced a record loss of £546,000 after Old Trafford didn't host a Test in 2009 and began their extensive redevelopment plans to try and ensure they earn an Ashes contest in 2013.
In accordance with the requirements of the ECB, additional improvements to Durham's infrastructure, funded by grant and ongoing equity investment, have also taken shape during the last 12 months. Currently the permanent capacity of The Riverside is being increased from 8,000 to 9,500, with further undercover facilities to be provided for supporters as well as an enhanced ECB Hospitality Area capable of hosting 200 people on a match day.
"We are fortunate that with, for example, the hotel and Gateway Building we have a number of long term income generating opportunities to underpin our cricketing ambitions," added Harker.
"Durham CCC is an ambitious club and although we have already achieved many milestones, we must continue to develop our infrastructure and international profile," said Clive Leach CBE, Durham's chairman.
"Improvements such as the media centre, additional seating capacity and the new hotel development will reinforce the ground's status on the world stage and should help us to secure more profitable international cricket and other major events for Durham.
"That in turn will allow us to maintain investment in the academy and the squad, so that we can continue to enjoy excellent domestic cricket and teams that consistently challenge for honours."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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