England news February 28, 2014

Debt-ridden Yorkshire pray for England miracle

Yorkshire's financial predicament has grown ever deeper as they have announced further heavy losses to take their debts towards £24m and appealed for the public to unfold its arms and start to support Test cricket

A disastrous May Test against New Zealand was the chief cause of a £600,000 loss in 2013 which would have been much worse were it not for a one-off interest rebate of £563,000 from HSBC, according to club accounts published today.

Yorkshire are desperate for England to regain the affection of supporters after a whitewash in Australia and the brouhaha surrounding the enforced international retirement of Kevin Pietersen. And Yorkshire supporters - even before things went badly awry - seem less entranced than most.

Only 36,000 spectators attended May Test against New Zealand, with Yorkshire excusing a dire return on bad weather - the first day was washed out - and the presence of Ashes Tests at three nearby venues - Chester-le-Street, Manchester and Nottingham, all less than two hours' drive away. They also conceded that to price the cheapest ticket at £40 in the north of England was a miscalculation and have reduced ticket prices for the Sri Lanka Test this year.

There was another washout for the ODI against Australia in September - the third ODI to fall to the weather in Leeds in five years - although this did not have a detrimental effect on Yorkshire's finances as the match was sold out in advance and refunds were paid courtesy of the ECB's bad-weather insurance.

But Yorkshire privately concede that the problem runs deeper than just bad weather, uninviting opposition or expensive tickets. The fact is that Yorkshire supporters have become increasingly resistant to supporting the Headingley Test and the proud old ground remains far from enticing despite heavy expenditure.

New Zealand attendances were dire despite the presence of Yorkshire's two brightest young batsmen, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. And the weather was not so poor that England did not have time to win the match.

Yorkshire must now brace themselves for another early-season Test - this time against Sri Lanka - and unless the Yorkshire public awakens, and rediscovers a desire to support the England side, the county's financial position could grow ever bleaker.

In other words, the supporters' tendency towards parochialism could damage the very county they profess to champion.

Only the fact that much of their debt is underwritten by the club chairman Colin Graves, the multi-millionaire founder of the Costcutter supermarket chain, is keeping Yorkshire solvent

As Graves made clear in the annual report, to be formally presented to members at the annual meeting on March 29: "For the club to prosper and grow, it is vital that we all continue to support international cricket at Headingley. Internationals are guaranteed every year until 2019, but we cannot afford to be complacent.

"We need the support of the whole of the Yorkshire cricket community for international cricket to prosper in the county, and ultimately the public to support us by buying tickets."

When it comes to Yorkshire cricket, neither are there any signs of the much-trumpeted economic upturn with commercial income down by £150k on 2012.

Yorkshire did not bid for an Ashes Test last year - nor have they done so for Australia's next visit - as it could cost up to £2m to stage. They also had a disastrous experience in 2010, when they lost around £1m staging the neutral Pakistan v Australia Test, when Pakistan fans stayed at home and professed to prefer limited-overs cricket.

Yorkshire are also desperate for the revamped NatWest Blast to be success, although the switch to a lengthy tournament to be played predominantly Friday nights for much of the summer, rather than rely upon the razzmatazz of a short, star-laden tournament, has not convinced everybody.

Yorkshire have signed the Australian Aaron Finch, one of the most destructive Twenty20 batsmen around, and he needs to fill Headingley to bring them signs of financial hope.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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