After an exciting winter & spring of international cricket, including a winning Ashes tour in Australia and a dramatic 50 overs World Cup on the Indian subcontinent, the English county cricket season is once again back in full swing.
Unfortunately, the 2011 domestic season, and indeed the whole financial viability of the county game, has been thrown into turmoil this year, after it was announced that 15 of the 18 county sides suffered significant financial losses during the 2010 season.
Two of the hardest hit counties were Lancashire and Yorkshire, both of which posted losses last season in excess of £2m. According to some sources, the collective deficit incurred by all 18 of the counties may reach somewhere in the region of £9m.
The worrying deficit trend across the teams is a stark contrast compared to the 2009 season, which saw over 50% of the counties in profit. With the general UK economy still deep in the financial doldrums, county staff and management have pointed to an increasingly busy schedule and a poor economic climate as the direct reason behind the 2010 loss.
Although there is reason for concern, it must also be remembered that at a time where the county game format appears to be somewhat out-dated in comparison to newer formats, such as the IPL, the English domestic game is continuing to produce a wealth of bowling and batting talents, especially in the test-match arena.
A spokesperson for the ECB expressed concern at the financial losses incurred, but assured supporters that the county game was still in reasonable health. According to the ECB, “out of an annual income of £114m in 2009, over 40% went directly back to the counties”. As well as continuing to invest in both county clubs and venues, the ECB also assured counties that an extensive consultation period on the number of games for the 2012 season would be held to ensure the financial viability of the game for many years to come.