Yorkshire CCC taking the positives after avoiding ‘disaster scenario’

TO go from an anticipated loss of around £2m for the financial year to an actual loss of around £125,000 feels more like a win for Yorkshire CCC.

Fans watch the play during the 2019 Cricket World Cup at Headingley. (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Paul Hudson, the club’s finance director, said: “We’ve actually ended up where we expected to end up, but in a totally different way.

“We didn’t have international cricket, we didn’t have domestic cricket in front of crowds, but then we had members donating to us, we had staff taking pay cuts, we had furlough income, money from the England and Wales Cricket Board, and so on.

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“Actually, these are a really positive set of financial results, and things could have been an awful lot worse.”

Yorkshire's Paul Hudson. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Just how much worse is clear as Hudson reflects on the club’s annual accounts, which show how well Yorkshire have navigated some challenging times.

In 2019, the club celebrated a record bottom-line profit of £4.4m on the back of the World Cup and a Headingley Ashes Test.

This time, the deficit could have run deep into seven-figures due to the impact of coronavirus, which has already cost the game in this country over £100m.

“If you go back to April last year, I was sort of head-in-hands looking at all the disaster scenarios and thinking that we could lose a couple of million quid,” said Hudson.

“It was a worrying time, and we literally went from the best year we’ve ever had to the once-in-a-century challenge brought by the pandemic.

“But we managed to maintain financial stability in line with our plans, despite the fact our conference and banqueting business, together with hospitality for domestic and international cricket, pretty much disappeared during the year, along with the fact we had a significant reduction in commercial income streams and rental incomes from third parties.

“Domestic ticket sales and memberships were also significantly reduced, so we’re certainly in a lot better place than we could have been.”

Yorkshire were the first county to take advantage of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays 80 per cent of employees’ salaries up to £2,500 a month.

“We claimed over £900,000 of furlough income, which has been a big help to us,” added Hudson. “Without that scheme, we wouldn’t have got to where we are now.

“The England and Wales Cricket Board also gave us a grant of £500,000, as it did with the other first-class counties, and with our members donating membership money, the staff taking pay cuts and the fact that we didn’t have to pay rates on the stadium, you soon get up towards the £2m figure, which is basically what happened.”

Hudson is especially grateful for the help of the members.

In Yorkshire’s hour of need, their loyal followers rallied to their side.

“The members helped massively,” he said. “Members donating their membership fees saved us £604,000 in total, or, to put it another way, that would have been the shortfall if everybody had said they wanted their money back.

“Around 85 per cent of members donated, which was absolutely brilliant, and we can’t thank them enough. Everyone at the club is just so grateful for the part that they’ve played in helping us through.”

It is the little – or rather the not-so-little – gestures that were particularly touching.

Hudson could give numerous examples of how people helped and picked out two off the top of his head.

“There was a bloke wrote to us and he went, ‘I’ve seen all this stuff (about the club’s financial challenges). So keep my membership. Oh, and could I buy 10 more?’ And he just put a cheque in the post… incredible.

“We had another guy, retired, and he bought memberships for his children and also his grandchildren. It was fantastic. Some of the gestures were absolutely terrific.”

The picture, then, is one of positivity.

Yorkshire’s debt remains high at £18.7m, but it has come down appreciably in recent times from around £25m, and there is a clear plan in place to bring it down further.

The club now owns the Carnegie Pavilion, having completed on its agreement with Leeds Beckett University to take full ownership of the building, allowing it complete control over that facility.

But there is no hint of complacency at Yorkshire HQ.

Hudson is under no illusion that this year will also be challenging as the Covid restrictions continue to bite, with so much still up in the air regarding the return of full crowds, for instance, as the government cautiously lifts lockdown subject to conditions.

“We’ve developed a business plan through this next year, but it’s sort of got this layer of uncertainty hanging over it,” he said.

“We’ve sold, at the moment, our budget on international tickets; there’s still some to sell, and they are insured by the ECB.

“But there’s this uncertainty still hanging around into next season, even though with (government) announcements like the other day, it’s getting better all the time.

“We’ve done very well, I think, to get to where we are now, but we also know that we’ve got to do it all over again during the coming months.”

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