English cricket coffers hit by pandemic

The England and Wales Cricket Board has reported a loss, after being hit for six by the pandemic
The England and Wales Cricket Board has reported a loss, after being hit for six by the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the England and Wales Cricket Board, which has reported a hefty 16.1 million pound loss ($A29 million) in its annual accounts.

Chief executive Tom Harrison has warned "we're not out of the woods yet" as the pandemic continues.

The ECB's financial results for the year ending January 31 make for sobering reading, with last year's 6.5 million pound ($A11.7 million) profit dramatically reversed.

The organisation's cash reserves have dwindled to just 2.2 million pounds against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Just five years ago, at the time of the 2016 results, those reserves stood at 73 million pounds.

Prior to the onset of the global health crisis the ECB had expected the past year to be characterised by rising revenues and expanded investment in the game.

Instead it faced a new landscape that saw the postponed launch of The Hundred and a rise of 27 million pounds in administrative costs, much of which could be attributed to setting up the bio-secure bubbles which allowed international cricket to go ahead last summer.

Thanks to the willingness of touring teams from the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia, those bubble environments at The Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford salvaged the ECB's bumper broadcast income.

But overall revenue was down 21 million pounds at 207 million pounds. Previous estimates that the wider game in England and Wales had lost 100 million pounds against projected revenues have also been reiterated.

In the foreword to the accompanying annual review, Harrison gives voice to concerns that despite the steady lifting of societal restrictions, the forthcoming international programme may not be a full return to business as usual.

He wrote: "Over the past 12 months we have had to confront the biggest financial crisis the game has ever experienced. And despite the optimism around at the time of writing, it is clear we're not out of the woods yet.

"Very significant challenges lie ahead. While we are hopeful and optimistic about the 2021 summer, we don't yet know what the implications are for the return of crowds or indeed on 'bubbles' for this season.

"Although we are navigating through uncertainty to which we have become accustomed, our ambition for the 2021 season sets a very high bar - we cannot lose another year of progress."

Elsewhere in the financial statement Harrison's concerns are revisited.

"The continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2021 season is likely to be significant," reads one passage.

"The government roadmap shows signs of optimism but is by no means an assurance we will see a return of full crowds in the summer due to social distancing restrictions."

The slender size of the reserves may prove the biggest concern, with a once-healthy rainy day fund perilously close to being emptied, having lost around 97 per cent of its 2016 value.

Australian Associated Press