Yorkshire CCC post record profit on back of Ben Stokes-inspired Ashes thriller

YORKSHIRE County Cricket Club has announced a record operating profit of £6.5m for 2019.

Headingley Stadium: Ground for success. Picture: SWPIX

The club is celebrating a bumper return after a year in which Emerald Headingley staged a thrilling Ashes Test and four World Cup games.

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The figure eclipses the previous record of £2.3m in 2009 – the year the club previously staged an Ashes Test.

Ben Stokes of England celebrates hitting the winning runs to win the 3rd Specsavers Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Headingley on August 25, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Paul Hudson, the Yorkshire CCC finance director, described it as “an absolutely stunning result”, with the precise EBITDA figure (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) standing at £6,451,000.

“It’s the best result in the club’s history, the best it’s done by a mile,” he said. “It’s stunning, and it comes largely from two things – the World Cup and the Ashes.

“The World Cup gave us pure cash – a one-off receipt of £1m, a figure distributed to all the first-class counties, together with (total) payments to stage our four matches of an additional £600,000.

“In addition, we received a small bonus on successful delivery and were able to sell a large volume of corporate hospitality for the matches and generated strong pouring rights income.

“Secondly, the Ashes was undoubtedly the standout financial highlight of the year, generating £4.7m in ticket sales, bolstered by another £1.9m of corporate hospitality revenue and pouring rights income.

“That revenue alone of £4.7m is a huge number and shows just how important high-profile international matches can be. All in all, it was a fantastic year.”

Yorkshire, who will present their financial figures to members at the club’s annual meeting at Headingley on March 21, were thus able to reduce their debt during the year by £3.8m.

The club’s net debt now stands at £18.3m from a peak of £24.6m in 2016, with £5.6m repaid in the last two years.

“The ability to repay debt over the last two financial years has marked a long-awaited return to reducing the debt and hence interest burden that the club has built up, with the purchasing of the ground and development of facilities,” added Hudson.

“From a financial perspective, that’s been really significant.

“We’ve made inroads into that debt repayment and now have a platform from which we can move forward in a managed way.

“As I’ve said before, we would ideally be debt-free or as low as we would want it to be – because I don’t think no debt is a good thing – by the end of the decade.”

Yorkshire are braced for what Hudson admits will be a “very difficult” 2020, with Headingley staging just two international fixtures – England’s T20s against Australia on July 7 and against Pakistan on August 29.

Although those matches promise to be of greater-than-usual interest with the T20 World Cup taking place in Australia this winter, giving England captain Eoin Morgan and his men important preparation, they are not the money-spinning games that the club enjoyed last year.

“We’re going from five one-day international matches in 2019 (including the ODI between England and Pakistan) plus an Ashes Test, to two evening international T20s,” said Hudson.

“They’re incomparable (in terms of finance) and the swing is enormous.

“We’re still hopeful that we’ll break even on a bottom line, but we plan to make no major loan repayments during the year.

“The T20 internationals will make a modest return, but not of such a significant scale that debt repayments are envisaged.”

The fact that catering and pouring rights have reverted to Yorkshire as part of their agreement with neighbours Leeds Rugby to build the new main Emerald Stand at Headingley was another significant factor in last year’s profit.

That alone generated revenue of £611,000 and is a key income stream going forward.

The new stand itself – one of the best in world cricket, with 4,400 seats and panoramic views – allows Yorkshire much greater financial independence.

The Emerald Suite inside the new stand gives the club/Leeds Rugby the ability to host corporate events unconnected with their sports.

Robin Smith, the outgoing Yorkshire chairman who retires from the board at the end of the annual meeting, said: “Emerald Headingley’s reputation as the entertainment venue of choice in the region has grown significantly during the year.

“I might add that Emerald Headingley constitutes an asset of abiding value to Leeds and to Yorkshire. Members should be proud of its major contribution to our region.”