Durham hand back India, Australia fixtures
Durham have given up the chance to host India and Australia during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in the latest sign that the newer international venues in England and Wales are finding it a struggle to balance the books in what are costly ventures.
They have handed back a Twenty20, which had been allocated to them against India in 2014, and an ODI against Australia for the following year. These matches will now be put back into a tender process for other grounds to host.
When Durham initially bid for matches the package they earned included matches against Sri Lanka (2014) and New Zealand (2015) which the club will retain. They were then offered the India and Australia contests at a fixed sum which they accepted but have now decided are not in their best interests.
"They are attractive fixtures, but how lucrative they are is another matter," David Harker, Durham's group chief executive said. "We decided to be cautious over what we could expect to sell to the public when the matches were reasonably close together."
The club were given an indication of potential problems when last year's Twenty20 against South Africa did not sell out. Finances are currently stretched at the club and they have not been able to afford an overseas player this season.
Durham will host their first Ashes Test later this year and retain the Test they are due to host against Sri Lanka in 2016. "We have a very good track record in tickets," Harker said, "and are confident in selling the matches we retain."
David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said: "Today's announcement is in line with Durham's long-term business plan and means that the club will host an optimal number of major matches over the four year period whilst allowing the North East region to continue to benefit from regular international cricket."
In March this year, Durham's Labour-controlled county council, agreed in principle to invest £2.8m in the club to help it through straitened financial times. The decision came against a backdrop of job losses and planned cutbacks amounting to £200m by 2018.
The council justified the investment on the basis of an independent impact report which concluded Durham would contribute almost £20m to the local economy this year, and a further £40m over the next three years.
It was also incumbent upon Durham, however, to show that unnecessary risks were not being taken with taxpayers' money.
Durham are not the first county to find hosting international cricket financially difficult. Yorkshire opted not to bid for 2013 and 2015 Ashes Tests because of the cost, while Glamorgan were plunged into financial problems after becoming a Test venue when the 2011 match against Sri Lanka was badly hit by weather.
Cardiff had been due to host the first Test against West Indies last summer, but it was put back out to tender after Glamorgan said they would be late paying their staging fees for the Sri Lanka match although they have been awarded a 2015 Ashes Test.
When the bidding process for international matches was first introduced it was done on a blind basis which often forced counties into levels of financial commitment they could not afford. The latest allocations, which took place last year, had set packages that counties could bid for ranging from £200,000 to £12 million and they were then judged against various criteria.
Additional information was added to this story on May 4
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo