Edgbaston cricket stadium is on course for record revenue thanks to a £7 million Ashes boost, which its boss claims will strengthen his hand in talks over sponsor naming rights for the venue.
The world famous stadium has already taken £5.5 million worth of ticket sales and close to £2 million from hospitality, months before Australia roll into town for a long-awaited Test Match.
Chief executive Colin Povey said the business had also been boosted by rising conferencing and events income – set to break £2.5 million this year.
Mr Povey has been talking to potential sponsors for years about renaming the Warwickshire CCC ground and said a boosted balance sheet meant he could look after the ground’s heritage – and the Edgbaston name was not for sale.
A deal is still likely – there are presently a dozen potential partners – but Mr Povey said he was less desperate for income than when talks started in 2011, after the £32 million stadium expansion.
“It depends who comes through the door and with what kind of cheque,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to be the Carlsberg cricket stadium but would I do an Emirates Old Trafford or Kia Oval-type deal? Yes.
“We can be more demanding in terms of cash if they want their brand all over this stadium and push more community relations and corporate social responsibility. The balance of the question has shifted slightly.”
With Australia arriving on July 29, Ashes revenue is likely to account for half of record turnover levels at Edgbaston this year .
It is already a financial record for a single match and will deliver a record crowd if the match goes a full five days.
Mr Povey said that, while the club was well insured against a washout, its balance sheet would be further boosted by merchandising income if the weather was kind.
He added: “We have just put in the extra seats and they are already selling like hot cakes. There is no doubt we will have a record pre-sold crowd and if it goes to five days it will definitely be a record crowd.”
The club is expected to follow the likes of Lancashire, who now play at Emirates Old Trafford, and Surrey, which call their home the Kia Oval, in selling naming rights.
Mr Povey said: “We have got about a dozen conversations going on at a reasonably high level.
“It’s one of those things where you just chip away and it eventually comes.
“But with the quality of commercial partners you start to ask yourself whether you really need to sell naming rights.
“When we started, it was a really important revenue stream but if the rest of the model is developed to a point where you aren’t so desperate for money then you have more choice about who you will work with and what it means for the wider brand and the city. There are certain brands and partners we would never have worked with – tobacco and gambling being examples.
“If the right brand came along at the right price then we would do the deal but it is not something I am worrying about.”
Mr Povey admitted with cricket, and sport in general, a notoriously cyclical industry, bad times could return to Edgbaston.
However, he said the club appeared financially “comfortable” until 2019, with the Ashes followed by a Pakistan Test Match and rising income from Twenty20 cricket.