Cricket crisis denied as Yorkshire try to postpone £2.5m repayments

YORKSHIRE County Cricket Club is unable to meet scheduled repayments of millions of pounds of public money used to redevelop its historic Headingley ground, the Yorkshire Post can reveal today.

Hear Yorkshire's chief executive Stewart Regan interviewed in our CricketTalk podcast

Payments totalling 2.5m due to Leeds City Council and Leeds Metropolitan University over this year and next will not be made, with the club attempting to negotiate a postponement until 2012. In all, Yorkshire needs to find just over 11.5m in repayments to the public purse, plus interest.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Both the council and Leeds Met want to help Yorkshire but both have also recognised they are responsible for protecting public finances.

Cash flow problems linked to the economic crisis and a lack of England matches at the venue have hit the club hard, forcing plans to defer payment.

The local authority and the club's bank have agreed to later payments but the overall financial restructuring is dependent on Leeds Met also agreeing to defer.

The university has agreed in principle but said it was mindful of its responsibility for public funds and that interest will be charged on any extended terms.

Leeds City Council lent the club 9m in 2005 to buy out Headingley's former owner to enable redevelopment to go ahead. Repayments have already been rescheduled once – last year – to help the club juggle its finances as it pushed through ground redevelopment.

But it has now emerged the club is unable to pay annual capital repayments of 900,000 due in both 2010 and 2011. Yorkshire will still make interest payments in both years.

The new arrangement means nearly all the 9m will remain outstanding in 2012 – but still have to be repaid in full by the due date in 2020. Instead of repaying over 15 years, Yorkshire will have to find the money in half the time.

A council spokeswoman said: "Yorkshire County Cricket Club is a very important asset to the city and the region and we will do what we can to help them in completing their development plans. These are very challenging times and we want to support the club through this period while ensuring public finances are protected."

Leeds Met is also due 3m towards a new 21m pavilion, for which the university provided the majority of funding as part of a controversial partnership programme with professional sports clubs.

Half is due to be paid over a 20-year rental period with the other 1.5m paid in four equal amounts, annually, starting last year. But Yorkshire couldn't meet the first full 375,000 payment last September, paying 300,000 instead, and is now seeking to pay nothing until 2012. The remaining 1.2m would be paid in six annual instalments of 200,000 up to 2018.

A Leeds Met spokesman said: "Yorkshire CCC requested a change in payment terms on the first four instalments and for some of the fit-out costs. The university is considering that request but have made it clear that if there are any changes in terms there has to be a guarantee on when and how the money is to be paid, and there will be interest charged on any extended terms so that the university is not worse off. "

He added that an agreement in principle for the pavilion, which includes education facilities, had been reached with Yorkshire.

Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves, founder of the Costcutter supermarket chain, denied the club was in financial trouble but acknowledged it did have a cash flow problem. He is personally guaranteeing repayments.

The club is about to embark on a cost-cutting programme but the potential impact on jobs is not yet known.

Mr Graves said: "Like any business we are looking at costs and ways and means to keep costs down in the current economic climate."

He added: "There's no wholesale redundancies, there's no sacking half the people. We are doing it as a normal management exercise."

The chairman said the club had been hit by a combination of economic recession, no England Test matches until 2012 and a hangover from borrowing heavily to buyout the cricket ground's former owner, Paul Caddick.

He said redevelopment of the ground had been essential to retain international fixtures which benefited the wider local economy.

Mr Graves added: "Everybody has been very supportive, very understanding. The council, Leeds Met and the bank have all got my personal guarantee. It's all been done through the proper channels. It's not a problem."