Colin Povey is confident that Warwickshire will continue to defy the doubters and make a success of their Pavilion End development after activating a 'repayment holiday' clause in their £20million loan from Birmingham City Council.
Committed to repaying the council £1.3million per year for the foreseeable future, the Bears have asked for the ‘holiday’ due to the light international schedule at Edgbaston next year.
They have chosen that course of action quite early in the overall equation. But chief executive Povey has revealed that was always the intention, bearing in mind there will be no Test match in Birmingham in 2014.
And he is adamant that the medium and long-term future of the club remains secure.
“In our agreement there was always scope for two repayment holidays and we have now asked to make use of this facility,” he said.
“It was always likely that we would do this around now, having completed the redevelopment and in light of our 2014 allocation of international matches.
“The ICC Champions Trophy will bring in some money this year but the on-sale date for the 2015 Ashes will subsequently accelerate our cash flow so it makes sense to do it this way.
“Our business plan has been looked at many times by ourselves, our auditors, the city council and the ECB and has been seen as robust and workable.
“There is still work to do, of course, to execute that plan and there is still a degree of risk, but that risk is nothing as compared to where we were a few years ago.”
Having driven the £32million project this far, in the face of significant opposition and cynicism at times, Povey remains bullish about the Bears’ ability to continue to meet the challenges of a tough economic climate which shows no sign of easing.
“At various points along the way people have doubted us and said ‘it’ll never work’, ‘it’ll never get built’, ‘you’ll never pay for it’, ‘you’ll go bankrupt’,” he said.
“But we are still here with a lot of the most difficult work now done.
“We have a superb stadium and world-class facilities up and running and non-match-day income levels are moving steadily in the right direction.
“We are in a good place for when the next Major Match allocation comes round. We are under no illusion that that this will still be hugely important for us, but we are making a strong case to host big games and have another chance to prove ourselves again this summer with the Champions Trophy.”
A big boost to that business plan would be the securing of a long-term naming-rights sponsor and talks are ongoing towards that objective.
Warwickshire are prepared to be patient to strike the right deal as Povey does not want Edgbaston to be renamed one year and then renamed again the next.
“We are in talks with several parties but we are talking about a substantial deal here so there are a lot of factors involved and we must get the right partner onboard,” he said.
“We want a ten-year deal to give us continuity and if we want that duration it has to be a partner with real credibility and shared values – one that we trust and feel comfortable with; a big, reputable partner, ideally based in the Midlands but with national and international ambitions like ourselves.
“There are several smaller partner deals that we are also working on.”
Warwickshire’s search for a naming-rights partner has had to continue following a curious U-turn by Birmingham City Council on a possible deal last month.
A highly detailed report into a proposed partnership, of which naming rights was a part, between council and cricket club was due for scrutiny by councillors, only to be bizarrely withdrawn from the agenda and, even more bizarrely, abruptly pulled off the council website as though it was some sort of embarrassment.
Three days later the council and cricket club issued a joint statement saying the partnership proposal had been withdrawn, while both were at pains to insist that the two bodies remain committed to working closely with each other.
One could only feel very sorry for the poor individual or individuals who had compiled the report, which was clearly the product of much time, diligence, hard work and research.
It contained some excellent ideas for integrating the club into the community which has, in large part, paid for the new Pavilion End.
But Birmingham City Council pulled out (coming across as somewhat less than organised!) – and the City of Birmingham Stadium was not to be.
Warwickshire were disappointed, though Povey full understands the council’s position.
“We got quite a long way down the line with the council and it was disappointing that it it didn’t quite work out,” Povey said. “But we understand the pressures they are under and that they have got to think very carefully about what they do with their money at a time like this.
“They remain a very close and important ongoing partner of ours and that partnership will hopefully go from strength to strength.
“In many ways we are pulling in the same direction, like promoting the city of Birmingham which will be showcased to the world when we host the ICC Champions Trophy.”