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December 14, 2008
A Conservative councillor has attacked Birmingham City Council's decision to lend Warwickshire £20 million in order to fund the redevelopment of Edgbaston.
The ambitious plans were unveiled in October and include increasing capacity by 5000 with the construction of a new stand. In addition, and to help recover the loan, there will be corporate hospitality suites as is now common with modern cricket grounds.
At the time Warwickshire claimed they would need to borrow £10 million, but a row at Birmingham City Council has broken out with rumours that the club will need at least double that figure. For a club who have struggled to break even in the past two years, there are deep concerns over how they will repay such a significant loan.
"Some important questions need to be asked. The council helps many organisations but is it right to give financial support by means of a loan considering our other priorities?" James Hutchings, chairman of the council's finance committee, told the Birmingham Post.
"During the past couple of seasons the cricket club has barely broken even. If they are only just breaking even how can they afford to pay £1 million annual interest charges and at some stage repay the loan? It wouldn't be very friendly for the council to lend them the money if that drives the club into financial failure."
Edgbaston is just one high-profile ground in England to announce extensive redevelopment plans. Both Lord's and The Oval, in London, have promised to expand their capacities and protect their financial future with corporate hospitality, and even hotels. Last week, the MCC expressed concern that their new development - which is estimated at £200 million - may run into difficulty if, as is threatened, the ECB decrease the number of Test matches hosted at the home of cricket.
"There is a big question mark in my mind as to whether [Edgbaston] will be able ever to repay the loan and whether the council has more urgent things to fund," Hutchings said. "The cricket club are very keen to retain Test match status and I absolutely support them in that."
A spokesman for the council said discussions were ongoing.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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