ECB millions bailing out county cricket
7th November 2012 12:00am GMT
The disastrous state of English cricket has forced the game’s top brass to cough up more than £150 million during the last five years in a bid to prop up the finances of ailing county teams.
Sports Direct News has learned that without these payments from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) – which in 2011 amounted to an average payment of £2.38 million per team – all 18 counties would have made multi-million pound losses.
“Cricket is doing everything it can to ensure it gets things under control, but the game’s finances are in a real mess,” commented a Commercial Director at a leading county.
“Balancing the books is an impossible task without the support of the ECB, and this support is growing. We don’t like it. The ECB doesn’t like it. But the counties have been unable to do anything to reverse the decline in recent years.
“These problems have being going on for more than 25 years, but it’s only recently that the counties have set about the task of tackling the situation in a meaningful way. It’s going to be a hard task, but it’s doable.”
During the last 12 months, more than £43 million has been coughed up to counties, with the eight Test venues faring better than most.
On the surface, Surrey recorded the best financial performance last year when it posted a profit of £805,000. Nottinghamshire and Somerset were also in the black to the tune of £500,000.
But if the ECB hadn’t paid out subsidies, there would have been a major reversal of fortune for the entire County Championship. And in Lancashire’s case, a £4 million loss would have risen to more than £6 million.
In recent years, the ECB has been forced to step up the level of subsidy it offers counties – up from £1.75 million in 2007 to £2.38 million in 2011. This represents a dramatic 36% increase during the period.
The appalling state of the counties’ bank balances could be a major reason why Kevin Pietersen has been rushed back into the England set-up after his spectacular bust-up with former skipper Andrew Strauss and the authorities.
“There’s no doubt about it, Pietersen is critical to the English game’s financial fortunes,” added the county source. “He puts bums on seats – regardless of whether he’s playing well, or not.
“He is a personality and the domestic game badly needs him. There’s nobody quite like him.
“I suspect that’s why he’s back on the scene so quickly after wreaking havoc in the England changing room. Petersen is needed to shore up the money. It’s as simple as that.”