County news June 4, 2010

Lancashire chief warns of financial trouble

Jim Cumbes, the Lancashire chief executive, has warned that a Test-match county could go bust in the near future unless changes are made to the bidding process for international matches, and believes a franchise-based system involving the nine major venues should be the way forward to support the English game.

His comments came as 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. 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.

"Without doubt," Cumbes said when asked about a county going under, "and it won't be a small one; it will be a big one. It's always possible, always possible. Yorkshire have a lot of debt at Headingley; Durham are in a lot of debt; we're in debt.

"Some grounds more than others cannot afford what is being asked. Trent Bridge's staging agreement finishes next year - they're frightened to death, because they have no other source of income but cricket yet have a ground they've got to maintain. Everybody's in the same boat.

"If the ECB don't relax on this bidding process and start to get more realistic about the numbers, all we've said is we need to look at something else to fill the grounds."

The problems stem from the increasing number of grounds now wanting to host international matches following the development of Chester-le-Street, Cardiff, The Rose Bowl and Bristol. There are strict standards grounds have to meet in order to stage top-level games, but in return they can't be guaranteed the volume of matches they need to break even.

"You've got nine Test match grounds, and seven Test matches - two of which go to Lord's - so you've got five for eight," said Cumbes. "If the board then wants you to spend a million quid a year maintaining the ground, you can't square the circle.

"Whatever we come up with, it has to work for the whole of the game. But at the moment, you've got nine grounds supporting the rest - so I suppose you could ask 'why aren't nine franchises supporting them as well?'

"I think it's probably got to happen. The IPL is the fourth-most successful sporting competition in the world; it works in South Africa and Australia. We've got to make it attractive enough to fill our grounds."

The first major part of Old Trafford's new look, an imposing red structure called The Point, is almost complete and will be open at the end of the month. The next stage of the plans, which include new player and media facilities plus more new stands, has been passed by Trafford Council and is now awaiting final clearance by Government North West before work can begin.

The club are confident the plans won't encounter any problems along the way although the recent General Election and a change of personnel in key positions has meant some delays.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richie on June 5, 2010, 14:48 GMT

    Unfortunately cricket is business much as a lot of us wish it was just a sport. Spending millions on developing the ground without a clear idea of where the income is coming from to support the costs is irresponsible. It's a little bit late for them to moan about the ECB.

    I do agree that Lords should only get one test (London would still get two tests a year) - but wasn't the two test thing agreed as part of the plans to develop Lords, which was a least sound business? The counties with test match grounds should look to some of the smaller counties who spend within their means and manage to survive accordingly.

    The problem of course actually comes from the counties whose grounds have recently reached test status. Bluntly, a Cardiff or Chester-le-Street will never manage to achieve the same crowds that a Manchester could. Rather than whinging Lancashire should be looking to ensure the ECB understands that and have maybe one test a year spread between the new test grounds.

  • Agnel on June 4, 2010, 7:16 GMT

    As a cricketer, fan and finance professional, I can quite understand what Mr Cumbes is stating here. I am an outsider for English Cricket, but very closely follow its cricket - be they the matches or the administration part of it, also following the recent saga of replicating IPL like event in England. I am surprised that ECB is playing spoilsport in the interests of these prime counties, especially Lancashire that has Old Trafford, Nottinghamshire with Trent Bridge and Yorkshire of Headingley fame. I cannot understand what stops ECB from trying to bring the moolah for the counties by agreeing a franchisee based set up and England is perhaps the best place in the world to host this. If an event like this is held in England, it will still be a big commercial success with worldwide viewers. The financially losing counties should dissolve the current setup at ECB and bring about a positive change in the best interests of English Cricket.

  • hayden on June 4, 2010, 6:28 GMT

    not that it will be popular but i think lords needs to give up one test for the greater good. i guess that would mean one touring team a year misses out on a test at HQ, but if it means more test grounds right around england then isnt that better than having half of englands test summer played in just its capital while the rest of the country fights over whats left! besides most of the other test nations main grounds such as the mcg, the bull ring etc only host one test a summer. others like edan gardens are lucky to even get that! simply in one summer give one tour a test at lords and the other tour a ODI or 20/20 so all players still get a chance to play on the hallowed turf and grounds like old trafford and headingly can keep their heads above water!

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