Durham want to stage Ashes repeat - but will have to overcome some financial hurdles first (From The Northern Echo)
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Durham want to stage Ashes repeat - but will have to overcome some financial hurdles first
DURHAM hope to stage another Ashes Test at Chester-le-Street, but chief executive David Harker admits they will have to overcome a number of financial obstacles if this week’s game is not to be a one-off.
The North-East’s first experience of the Ashes has been hailed as a huge success with England’s players triumphing in a thrilling encounter on the pitch, while more than 70,000 spectators packed into Emirates Durham ICG to watch.
The Test is estimated to have been worth around £20m to the regional economy, but it only took place after Durham received £5.6m of public money from Durham County Council and the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership.
The England and Wales Cricket Board operates a bidding process where clubs must offer financial guarantees in order to stage the most lucrative matches, and with a number of their rivals in a much healthier financial position, Durham could struggle to fund a bid for future Ashes Tests.
“It’s most certainly feasible, and we’ve not ruled ourselves out of doing this again,” said Harker. “But we have to be realistic and understand that the economics of the game are such that it is very difficult for us to compete on a like-for-like level with some of the bigger cricket grounds in the country.
“A lot will depend on the view of the ECB moving forward, but I’m sure we will continue to host regular international cricket. How many of what you would term the very top matches we get compared to other grounds around the country, only time will tell. But we’ve proved what we’re capable of and we clearly don’t want this to be a one-off if at all possible.”
When the Ashes next come to England in 2015, there will not be a single Test match staged north of Nottingham, a situation that appears to fly in the face of the ECB’s pledge to ensure that the England team is accessible to the whole of the country.
Harker accepts the governing body have to ensure their own financial stability, but argues profit should not be the only consideration when the biggest games are being allocated.
“I think the ECB has a duty to all of cricket,” he said. “One of their key responsibilities is obviously to extract the maximum funds from the avenues that are available to them. International matches are a big part of that, and the money the ECB makes is crucial in terms of funding cricket from the grassroots upwards and helping to develop the next generation of England players.
“But the development of the game also depends on having a strong regional representation and ensuring people within the regions continue to have a strong affiliation with English cricket and the England team.
“The ECB have to manage that. It’s not necessarily about getting the maximum (money), it’s more about getting the optimal balance.
“If the ECB are prepared to accept that there is a need to spread international cricket around the country, then we also have to accept that we might have to be happy with a slightly lesser share than the likes of Lord’s or The Oval.”
Durham suffered a £2.5m loss between September 2009 and 2011, but the income generated by the four days of Ashes competition will help put the club back on a more even financial keel.
The Test also helped market cricket in Durham on a national and international stage, and Harker is hoping the feel-good factor will endure as the club looks to develop in the future.
“This game was an essential part of our business plan and always has been,” he said. “We’re very happy with the way it’s gone from a cricketing and financial point of view. From a club perspective, it would have been nice to go into a fifth day, but we could easily have had a situation where three or four days were wrecked by the weather.
“We knew that we had this fixture in the diary to be able to plan around, and alongside the support of our major stakeholders, it has given us a solid platform for growth.
“We’ve been talking about the importance of the club in the economic picture, and this has brought a lot of what we’ve been saying to life. We’ve been talking about the potential benefits of hosting an Ashes Test, and now we’ve seen that they’re real and we’ve been able to tap into them.
“We’ve all experienced the buzz of an event like this now, and it’s been great to play a part in a piece of cricketing history. Hopefully, we’ll go on to have similar days again in the future.”
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