Worcestershire chairman John Elliott has issued a stark warning over the long-term financial health of the club.
Speaking at the club's annual meeting, Elliott warned of a growing disparity in wealth between the Test-hosting counties and those that do not. He is particularly concerned that the club's New Road pavilion is in urgent need of a complete overhaul and warned that the club could be "in dire straits" in a few years time.
"Our pavilion is 110 years old," Elliott told The Post. "It's not in a good condition. It has cost us £50,000 just to get it through health and safety regulations this winter and we can't keep spending good money on it.
"I wanted the members to realise the seriousness of the position. We could have a disaster with it [the pavilion] which would put us in dire straits.
"Everyone at the club has worked very hard and done brilliantly to earn a profit of around £50,000 for the third successive year. That will compare very favourably with other clubs but that's how much it cost to re-floor the pavilion and we're spending another £50,000 just to re-tarmac the car park. Times in county cricket are really tough.
"It will cost us around £2 million to build a pavilion with a modern design and £3 million in a Victorian design. We need some new ideas to see how we can come up with the money."
The club had hoped to develop land on the old garage site adjacent to the ground. However, plans for 65 apartments have been scuppered by regulations stipulating that 30 per cent of the flats must be 'social housing.'
"There's just no profit in it," Elliott said. "I'm very disappointed but it's on the back-burner for now."
The committee has overseen a change in the constitution of the club to attract, in chief executive Mark Newton's words: "people with business experience . . . and people with wealth" on to the committee.
"I wanted us to be able to headhunt three people," Elliott said. "There may be people out there who are prepared to get involved who will add their expertise - and perhaps their money - to the club."
As a result of the changes it will no longer be necessary to be elected on to the committee, even to the position of chairman; a move which former Worcestershire secretary Reverend Mike Vockins warned risked the county becoming a "fiefdom" rather than a members' club. But Elliott, whose eight-year tenure as the club's chairman ends in September, scoffed at such prospects, highlighting the need to bring in extra finance.
"Test Match grounds are getting richer and we're getting poorer," he said. "It's not a level playing field. I'd like the ECB to give us non-Test hosting counties an extra £100,000 a year from the central allocation. That would seem to be fair but I can't see the bigger counties going for it."
Indeed. In a separate development yesterday, Lancashire chairman Jack Simmons dismissed any such suggestion.
As one of the five counties to stage last summer's sellout Ashes series, Lancashire made a record profit of £580,164 while Warwickshire declared a £750,000 profit and Surrey are expected to
announce a surplus of about £500,000 - all of them helped by the vast interest in the Ashes series.
But Simmons said: "Test match grounds have, in my view, kept county cricket going through 30 or so years. When you didn't have the vast amount of money coming into the game from television and radio, whatever the smaller counties got came from putting bums on seats at Test match grounds."
Lancashire and the other Test match counties agree every year with the England and Wales Cricket Board and pledge to return a set figure every summer for distribution among the other counties.
Simmons said: "All Test match grounds have to give that money back to the ECB, irrespective of what happens. If it rains or nobody comes, we would then still have to furnish the ECB with that money." ..SUPL: