WHEN Mark Arthur was appointed chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club last May, he arrived at Headingley with a simple remit.
“To turn things around, quite frankly,” he reflects, which basically means that he was asked by club chairman Colin Graves to grab the business by the scruff of the neck.
With Graves forced to take less of a hands-on role after his appointment as deputy chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, he needed someone with the business and marketing skill to help drive the club forward – a club still overly reliant on his millions and munificence.
And it is a clear sign of Yorkshire’s progress under Arthur – and the efforts being made to help lift the burden off Graves – that the club will today announce that leading accounting firm Mazars are their new principal partner in a deal thought to be worth around £400,000.
Although neither Yorkshire nor Mazars will disclose the exact figures, with the deal running for two years with the option of a third year, Arthur’s influence is transparent.
For although the club’s commercial arm has worked collectively to secure this sponsorship, it is a particular feather in Arthur’s cap – and cast-iron proof, were any needed, that Graves and the board picked the right man.
Indeed, the proactive way in which Arthur has tackled the remit given him by Graves is very much reflected in this sponsorship, with Arthur and the club staff having pulled out all the stops to attract the best possible deal from a number of suitors.
It is the same proactive attitude Arthur has displayed to championing Yorkshire’s cause throughout the close season, with the former Nottingham Forest CEO having visited many of the county’s cricket clubs to help boost Yorkshire’s profile.
Arthur acknowledges the deal with Mazars is “a real sign” of the positive progress Yorkshire are making off the field as well as on it, with first team coach Jason Gillespie and director of cricket Martyn Moxon having moulded the team into a powerful unit.
“Going forward, we’ve set ourselves much greater targets than were achieved last year, and this deal helps to put us on a firmer financial footing,” said Arthur, as the club battle debts now standing at £24m.
“Strategically, we’ve decided to take the business forward rather than retrench, and we’re now showing signs of growth in all areas while always remembering that we are here to play cricket and to try to win trophies.
“Of course, there’s still plenty of work to do; we have to improve on Test match ticket sales – not only for the revenue but also to show that we can host international cricket at Headingley going forward, and we’ve already reached a stage where there are only 4,000 tickets left for the Saturday of our Test match against Sri Lanka in June.
“We need to improve revenue streams for Twenty20 and, again, we’ve already sold 60 per cent of tickets for our home T20 game against Lancashire, so things are really motoring in that regard too.
“In addition, we’ve already sold more hospitality places for our Test match this summer than we did at the conclusion of the Test match last year, and there are a number of areas which we are improving. But this partnership with Mazars is very much our headline partnership. From that bedrock, it then enables us with confidence to drive the club forward.”
In securing this deal, Yorkshire have not just joined forces with any old partner.
“We did have several options, but we’ve moved very, very quickly on this because it works so well for us,” said Arthur. “Aside from the financial aspect, it’s a perfect fit. We’re working with a global company, a global brand, with great credibility in their own market sector.
“They also love their cricket, which is very important. Mazars have got 20 offices around the country, and, wherever we’re playing around the country, they will have representatives there too. They’re very keen to be present at our away games, as well as our home games, and that’s important because while we’re both global brands, we’re working hard to create a Yorkshire cricketing family and Mazars are very much part of that now.”
Arthur’s sentiments were echoed by Mazars’ senior partner Phil Verity.
“It’s a great fit in terms of our own business culture, our approach to talent and our strategy to succeed in our chosen markets,” he said.
“Most importantly, we share a common commitment to building a reputation for excellence, nationally and internationally, on the back of a quality team.”