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LEP offers £2.8m loan to Durham cricket club
DURHAM County Cricket Club received another major boost tonight (Monday, March 18), with a regional growth body promising loans of up to £2.8m.
Last week, it emerged the Chester-le-Street-based club was seeking nearly £6m in public funding to secure the long-term future of international cricket in Durham.
The shock news, just months before Durham is due to host its first Ashes Test, was quickly followed by Durham County Council’s cabinet agreeing in principle to a £2.8m loan. Tonight, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board has agreed a further £2.8m.
With those investments secured, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is expected to complete the jigsaw by agreeing a further £1m very shortly.
The LEP will immediately loan £1.2m to allow the club to buy more seats for its Emirates ground. Previously, temporary seats have been hired to increase the stadium’s capacity for big matches. The LEP expects this loan to be repaid within seven years.
A further £1.6m is subject to further proposals coming forward.
Speaking following a meeting in South Shields tonight, LEP chair Paul Woolston said he was delighted at the funding and called on the ECB to “demonstrate the same resolve”.
“Durham County Cricket Club is an important asset for the North-East and upgrading the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground stadium will attract global, national and local visitors to the area as part of the club’s business plan,” he added.
Club chairman Clive Leach and chief executive David Harker said they were very grateful for the LEP’s backing, while an ECB spokesman said it was delighted. Durham County Council leader Simon Henig said he was very pleased.
Mr Woolston said the money would come from the LEP’s investment fund, which is worth nearly £60m. He denied the club was getting special treatment, saying the LEP welcomed other funding bids and should a football club, for example, come forward with a scheme to create jobs and growth, it would also be considered.
Durham has lost money in recent years but it is hoped it will return to profit during 2013. Its Ashes Test is scheduled for August.
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