Marylebone Cricket Club January 30, 2007

MCC chairman defends debenture scheme

Cricinfo staff

Members at Lord's face higher costs if they are to keep coming to the ground in the future © Martin Williamson

MCC's controversial new debenture scheme, which offers the right for punters to buy tickets at Lord's for eight seasons at costs of up to £12,000, has been strongly defended by its chairman, Charles Fry, as part of a recognition that the ground's venerable status is not enough to guarantee international cricket.

The scheme has prompted moves for the club to hold a Special General Meeting, but Fry insists that the money the debentures will generate - over £13 million - is "essential" if Lord's is to "retain both its world-class status and its current share of major matches".

Without a further series of ground improvements, including a higher capacity, Lord's runs the risk, according to Fry, of losing both its premier status and its ability to attract major fixtures - such as Test matches, one-day internationals and domestic finals. This was a risk that MCC's Committee "is simply not willing to take".

While understanding the concerns of current debenture-holders, who are being asked to pay significantly more than before for their ticketing and dining privileges, Mr Fry emphasised that MCC's Committee was "duty-bound" to take decisions which, however controversial among a minority of Members, were "in the interests of the game, the ground and the Club as a whole."

Acknowledging that the new Lord's debentures - priced at between £8,000 and £12,000 each - are far more expensive than their predecessors, he argued that their costs were broadly similar to those charged in respect of other comparable sports venues, such as rugby union's Twickenham headquarters.

There are currently 18,000 full members and 4,000 associate members of the MCC. The current maximum annual subscription, entitling the member to enter the ground on every matchday, is £344. And, in addition to their anger about the increase in costs, members also expressed concerns that only corporate customers would buy the new schemes.

But Fry said: "The debentures in the Mound Stand are currently all owned by MCC Members. Indeed, they have priority status when it comes to buying the new issue, and I would be delighted if they bought every seat that it covers.

"But if they don't, we need to ensure that all the debentures are still sold. Only then can we maximise our investment in Lord's and, in the process, maximise its chances of retaining its current share of major matches - as all our Members would wish."

The current Mound Stand debenture-holders, all of whom are MCC members, will still have access to the pavilion and other areas at Lord's, a privilege not afforded to corporate customers or the general public.

Call 0207 616 8726 for more details of debentures