"Live now, pay later" seems to be top of the hidden agenda concerning the recent decision by the England & Wales Cricket Board to sell all international cricket to Sky Television, and thus disenfranchise any household who either will not, or cannot, buy a dish to augment their terrestrial entertainment.

How else can we explain this extract from Warwickshire?s Yearbook and Annual Report for 2005, written by honorary treasurer, Stephen Mills?

?There has been a considerable amount of publicity about the outcome of negotiations on future broadcasting rights.

? Without entering the debate on terrestrial versus satellite, the financial result looks as though ECB will be able to maintain payments to counties at a similar level to that currently received.

?A consequent issue about the level of advertising revenue seems to have been presently put on one side.?

That paragraph begs one question and raises another. Why has one of the clubs which stages international cricket chosen ?not to enter the debate? about the switch from terrestrial to satellite?

And why has ?the consequent issue about the level of advertising? apparently been presently put on one side?

Warwickshire?s accounts for 2004 show advertising revenue of #476,788 in respect of advertising boards around the ground.

That was an increase of #151,000 compared with 2003 but, as Mills makes clear, part of the reason for that was that the company handling all such revenues for the ECB in 2003 went into financial administration.

Therefore, the increase in real terms was rather less flattering.

The newly-appointed company, Frontiers, has the urgent task of convincing the advertising market that they should still pay the same rates for 2006, when Sky will inevitably draw an appreciable smaller number of viewers than will Channel 4 in this, their last year.

The 18 counties were quick enough to prod their negotiators in the new deal to take the extra cash but they may well regret their haste to reach a decison based purely upon finance, with no apparent consideration for the wider issues affecting the grassroots future of the game.

It is impossible to quantify the consequences of the inability of large numbers of youngsters to see their England heroes unless they watch them live.

What about the other end of the age scale where many cricket nuts have seen their last live televised Test cricket unless the next contract reverts to terrestrial around 2010?

Among the most bizarre answers ever given to a broadcast question from your correspondent to a top official from Lord?s came from Mike Soper, former chairman of Surrey and now among the ECB top brass.

Asked about the inevitably large reduction in audiences next year, he said: ?You must realise that attendances at Test cricket in this country are increasing. Therefore, if more people are going to matches, fewer must be watching on TV. ?

Back to those Warwickshire accounts and it is interesting to compare the income of Test match clubs compared with that of yesterday?s visitors to Edgbaston, Somerset.

The West Country club generated income of #3.3 million last year of which #2 million came from catering and concerts.

They and the other ten non-Test grounds would be sunk without their annual slice of the ECB cake which amounts to #1.3 million. Lancashire raised #9.4 million, including little more than #100,000 from gate monies from home domestic competitive matches.

Warwickshire?s total income was #7.5 million including county gate receipts of #117,000. Add members? subscriptions of #501,000 and another #205,000 from coaching and the Academy and still there is a shortfall of well over #400,000 in the players? annual wage bill of #1,276,000.

The Edgbaston authorites undoubtedly run a tight ship and the above figures are purely illustrative of the economical problems of the modern game and are not given in a critical manner.

The brutal truth is that the more attention that has been paid to the commercial aspect of cricket in this country, the more the clubs are chasing their tails.

Warwickshire?s final surplus for 2004 was #147, 232, which amounts to coppers in the context of an income in excess of #7 million.

It seems that the club is hopeful that the advertising revenue from boundary boards will be maintained next year when Sky audiences will be greatly reduced.

But the Frontiers company will have to achieve a miracle to make this happen.

The final warning from Mills is ominous: ?It is common knowledge that the general committee would wish to put forward plans to redevelop the Pavilion and related areas in the near future, subject to proper feasibilities being carried out.

?Any such project will need an extension of the present Staging Agreement (worth an annual #235,000) which is due to expire in 2008.

?ECB has been requested to consider this matter as an urgent priority but changes in central executives and corporate governance issues have prevented a dialogue from starting. We shall continue to press for this discussion to enable a suitable financing package to be developed.?

This will be the biggest test imaginable for the new ECB chief executive, David Collier.

The staging agreements for the Test match grounds have always caused unrest with the smaller county clubs, who well know that any significant increase will come out of their pockets.

The difference this time is that the First Class Forum is about to be replaced by a new 12-man board of directors, although much will depend upon the personnel of that body.

The fewer county representatives the better if that ?Live now, pay later? threat is to be avoided.

Otherwise, the cost to clubs such as Warwickshire and their members will be heavy.

As it still might be if the Sky falls in on the advertising market.