Don’t panic. That was the crux of the message that Lancashire stressed to their members in an annual report that revealed eyewatering losses of almost £4m, smashing the previous record for the worst financial results in county cricket history.
Tempting as it might be to describe this as the cost of Lancashire’s first outright County Championship since 1934, nothing could be further from the truth. That on-field triumph was all the more admirable as it came on a shoestring budget necessitated by the serious cash problems behind the scenes.
For much of last summer, while Glen Chapple’s team were exceeding all expectations out in the middle, the future of one of county cricket’s more resonant names was genuinely under threat, as the club battled a stubborn foe to secure permission for the redevelopment of Old Trafford.
It was only after they had claimed a final legal victory at the High Court in London in July that they could risk calling the 2011 Annual General Meeting, the latest in the county’s history, at which the finance and operations director Lee Morgan confirmed losses of £2.1m for the previous year – and warned that worse was to follow.
How much worse is confirmed in the latest figures. “During what was again an extremely challenging period of ongoing redevelopment activity at Old Trafford, Lancashire County Cricket Club reports a loss of £3.966 million for the financial year ending 31 December 2011,” says a club statement.
Gulp. But the explanation is slightly more reassuring. Lancashire explain that the figure is “not a surprise to the club, and is largely in line with its forecast five-year business plan.”
The legal battle accounts for £520,000 of the losses, and a further £1.8m comes from the depreciation of assets that have been demolished since the redevelopment work began last autumn. Lancashire have not staged a Test since 2009, but Morgan is confident that the situation will improve considerably later this year when tickets for the Ashes Test that has been awarded to Old Trafford for 2013 go on sale.
“The nature of this result is a continuing reflection of the difficulties faced with building a new stadium on an existing site,” he said. “However, despite the difficulties faced, we are still very much on course to achieve our goals and ultimately return to a vibrant and profitable cricket club.”
With neat timing that was purely accidental, hours before the accounts were unveiled, Chapple was leading the team to an impressive victory over the MCC in the curtain-raiser to the county season out in Abu Dhabi.
So the Lancashire players will return home in high spirits ahead of their title defence, which begins against Sussex at Aigburth on April 12, after they sit out the opening round of fixtures.