Durham Cricket Club make shock plea for £6m from public purse months before Ashes Test (From The Northern Echo)
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Durham Cricket Club make shock plea for £6m from public purse months before Ashes Test
DURHAM County Cricket Club has made an urgent appeal for millions of pounds in public funding – just months before it is due to host its first Ashes Test.
Last night (Wednesday, March 13), a spokeswoman for the Chester-le-Street-based club said the shock plea for nearly £6m from the public purse was essential to secure the long-term future of international cricket at Durham – and without this it was difficult to see how the club could sustain its existing infrastructure.
But the application “did not reflect any immediate threat to the Ashes”, she added.
Earlier in the day, Durham County Council’s cabinet agreed ‘in principle’ to a £2.8m loan, with leader Simon Henig saying the club provided more than 100 jobs and a very strong community sport programme for young people and was a great asset – putting the North-East on the map.
The club is expected to boost the region’s economy by £20m this year and a further £40m over the next three years.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is expected to agree a further £2.8m on Monday.
A LEP spokeswoman said partners were committed to making investment “in the context of a sustainable business plan that maintains international cricket in the North-East”.
Elsewhere, a further £1m loan is expected from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
It remains unclear, however, just what the money will be spent on.
After attending yesterday's behind-closed-doors meeting at County Hall, Bob Arthur, an independent member of Durham County Council and Durham fan, said he was concerned about this.
Councillor Henig said the council’s loan was for capital spending – money aimed at creating future benefits, often building projects.
Clive Leach, the club’s chairman, said it needed to demonstrate local stakeholder support to make international cricket a permanent fixture in Durham and become a profitable, community focused business.
Durham gained first-class status in 1991 and hosted its first Test match in 2003. On the field, the club was spectacularly successful – winning the county championship in 2008 and 2009.
It is set for the biggest date in its history in August, when it hosts its first England versus Australia Test match – the fourth in a five-match series.
However, Durham lost £2.5m between September 2009 and 2011, turnover dropped by £600,000 between 2009-10 and 2010-11 and a planned 150-bedroom hotel at the re-named Emirates ground has failed to materialise.
A five-year development plan forecast the club returning to profit this year.
But the team has scaled back this year’s pre-season preparations, visiting Loughborough for four days while previous programmes have included trips to South Africa and Dubai, and head coach Geoff Cook has said the club’s financial situation “prohibits any signings”.
The club already owes the council money from a loan made four years ago. However, Coun Henig said this was being repaid as expected.
Negotiations have not begun over how the new loan will be made or repaid but Coun Henig said he did not expect it to be repaid “tomorrow”.
In return for the money, the council wants more influence over the running of the club – a demand the club is comfortable with.
Coun Henig said the council, which faces spending cuts totalling more than £200m, would fund the loan from its capital contingency budget, including some borrowing – which the authority can take out at a better rate than the club itself.
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