Friday, 17 April 2020

The Return to Cricket Grant Scheme

A month ago I wrote about the impact that Coronavirus could well have on club cricket across the UK. I mentioned that many clubs could go to the wall without the financial assistance of governing bodies due to the loss of revenue from subscriptions and match fees this summer, along with other sources of income. As a chairman of a club in North London, I am well aware that without the roots in place, a plant withers and dies. To their credit three organisations have come forward with aid for the clubs. Sport England, local councils and the ECB. However, with the ECB there is one huge problem...

The ECB announced yesterday that they were launching the Return to Cricket Grant Scheme, along with a loan facility if needed. Many clubs are not for profit organisations and getting a loan that you have to repay is a big ask for most clubs in the UK The grant scheme is a payment of £1,000 to £3,000 depending on the size of your club, if it has a junior section etc. To qualify, you had to meet a certain criteria. This is as follows;
  • Clubs that are prevented from taking out an Emergency Loan by their own constitution or articles
  • Cricket leagues (open-age or junior)
  • Clubs that have an annual turnover of less than £15,000

The problem lies in the fact that most cricket clubs across the country have more than a £15,000 turnover.

Say the average club has three Saturday elevens and sixty juniors. The average demographic of most Saturday sides would be roughly made up of 25 adults and eight juniors. An average subscription is around £100 - more in some parts of the country, less in others, along with approximately £60 for colts. An average match fee is £10 with £5 for juniors. Take in 20 games in a season and this is;

Annual Subscription Adult - £2,500

Annual Subscription Junior - £3,600

Match Fee Adult - £5,000

Match Fee Junior - £800

Total - £11,900

This is a figure without bar profits, summer cricket camps, mark up on kit for the club, social fundraising events, fireworks nights, hire of clubhouses or any of the other ad hoc streams of revenue that are crucial to the survival of most clubs. The majority of clubs across the UK will need more than £15,000 a year turnover to survive.

Therefore the grant from the ECB will be available to only around 30% of the clubs in the country.

Junior cricket...the lifeblood of many clubs

We spoke to Martin Clifford, chairman of Castle Bromwich CC who play in the Warwickshire Division Three. An average, yet homely club at the heart of their community, located in the middle of the country, who play a decent standard but one they are all completely happy with. "We rent our ground from the parish council. Our rent alone is £18,000 a year. The ECB are letting the small clubs down by not being eligible for the back to cricket grant scheme".

Martin has a point. Not many cricket clubs own the land that they play on. They have survived for years by renting off the likes of the parish council, the local council or in the instance of my club, a charitable Trust. Most clubs, especially in the south east of the UK who have two grounds will be paying around a five figure sum for the rent of their ground. Therefore to survive as a club, having bought all of the balls from the league, insurances, subscriptions to various bodies most will be having to turnover more than £15,000 per annum to exist.

I'm not sure where the ECB have plucked this mysterious figure of £15,000 out of the air from?

Cynics amongst the club cricket cognoscenti have suggested it is a figure which rules out most clubs, so that they can be seen to be helping without really putting their hands in their pockets. One chairman of a club local to ours said "They really want to offer a loan, so they get the money back. That's why they are aiming it a small selection of clubs who would be eligible for the grant. I don't know of any league club in London with a junior section who turns over less than £15k."

Sport England have been excellent in offering money to clubs. Local Councils have been very good too offering grants. The Counties themselves have been top notch with emails and telephone calls to me personally, advising us as a club on the best way to get through this crisis. So why haven't the ECB?

To me, it seems that a hell of a lot of money is being invested at the top of the game with counties being offered £1.3million a year for five years to give the go ahead to The Hundred. It is a shame that the governing body of cricket in the UK, a specific governing body for our game, isn't helping out the clubs who are the foundations of those counties - their feeder clubs in essence.

A very sad indictment indeed.

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