Commercial director Gareth Roberts believes “the building blocks are in place for a solid future” for Warwickshire and the club is “well-placed” to meet the challenges ahead.
The Bears are deep in debt to Birmingham City Council and will remain so for years while they discharge the £20million-plus-interest repayments. But they are confident they can meet those obligations.
In the immediate term, with no Test at Edgbaston this year or next, things remain tight - so much so that the club has activated a repayment-holiday clause in its deal with the council.
But in 2015 comes the giant fillip of an Ashes Test. And Roberts is adamant that already the future is brightening as the club starts to exploit the full potential of the £32million Pavilion End development
“The building blocks are in place for a solid future,” he said. “There is a good vibe around the place.
“We have overseen the transition from cricket club to major business. The commercial team is now delivering and we are on course to deliver over budget for the first time since 2008.
“It is very much people-led. As a club we have invested in people and now have the right people in place.
“This year was a challenge and next year will be another but we are well-placed to meet those challenges. Everybody knows we will be repaying the loan for 20 years but we are getting to the stage where we can repay the instalment every year and also make some profit.
“We still have a lot of hard work to do to make the stadium pay for 12 months a year. But we have our strategic plan, approved by the ECB, in place and are very focused on that.
“The repayment holiday will help us through to the 2015 Ashes. In terms of income, an Ashes Test can’t be beaten but we have moved on from the situation where you fill your boots from an Ashes Test every four years and limp on through the other three.”
Warwickshire were encouraged by feedback from their hosting of ICC Champions Trophy matches, including the final, this year.
“We proved we can stage the biggest matches. India v Pakistan is probably the biggest challenge you can have as a host stadium and we delivered. Everything went really well.
“We have restored the ground’s reputation as an international venue and have now all settled into the new facilities.”
Roberts and his team must now exploit those facilities to the full and high on the agenda is to wring as much as money as possible out of the new domestic Twenty20 format.
Next season, for the first time, T20s will be played weekly with group games taking place every Friday evening from mid-May to late July.
Warwickshire’s mission is to crank up the occasions at Edgbaston back to the days before the novelty began to wear off and five-figure crowds attended some T20s.
“We see scope for significant uplift in T20,” Roberts said. “We are setting up a T20 project team.
“The itinerary next season will help a lot. Next year we will have four, hopefully five, Friday-night T20s so people will know when the games are coming. They can associate Friday night/Bears/T20 as a product they can rely on.
“Hopefully the Bears will have a good year in the tournament because success would drive interest, although we sold our allocation for the finals day anyway this year.
“For theatre and a great venue I don’t think you could beat T20 finals day at Edgbaston. It was more or less perfect for us from a business point of view. We want to make Edgbaston the home of T20 finals day - ideally, of course, with Warwickshire playing in it.”
Meanwhile, the Bears are set to play a first-team 50-over match at Rugby School in 2014 following the venue’s impressive debut as an outground this year.
The school’s hosting of a Twenty20 game against Glamorgan in June was a great success with the pitch and facilities meeting with approval and a sell-out crowd in attendance.
Now the Bears are likely to upgrade their visit next year to a match in the new 50-over competition which will replace the YB40 in the fixture-list. The tournament will be played in an initial group format from late July onwards and one of Warwickshire’s home matches will be at Rugby.
“We are keen to take a 50-over game there and the school are keen to host one, so now we are just waiting for the draft fixtures to come through so we can pinpoint a match,” said Warwickshire chief executive Colin Povey.
“As a club we were delighted with the way the school hosted the T20 match this year. Everything was right – except the result.”
Rugby School appears destined to become a regular outground in the Bears’ schedule in years to come. But will the attractive venue ever make the fnal step and stage county championship cricket?
“That would be another big step to take,” Povey said, “and I’m not sure that the school would want to take on the financial risk involved in hosting a championship match. But you never say never.”