THE salient details of Yorkshire’s annual meeting at Headingley on Saturday can be simply distilled.
The club’s financial picture is steadily improving; net debt has fallen roughly £5m during the past four years to circa £20m, another £3.7m of which will be paid back this year.
Paul Hudson, the club’s finance director, forecasted – in the best traditions of his Look North namesake – that the club’s debt will “either be nil or as low as the club wants to take it by the late 2020s”.
Had Hudson been presenting the weather forecast, indeed, it would have been one leaning towards a long-range outlook of wall-to-wall sunshine.
“We are now turning the corner,” he told around 400 members packed into the Long Room. “The next year in our finances is an enormous step forward.”
By that, he was referring to the fact that catering and pouring rights have now returned to the club (as part of their agreement with Leeds Rugby to build the new main stand), the financial boost provided by the new stand (which Yorkshire confirmed they will have use of for the first time when England play Pakistan in a one-day international on May 19), and the fact that Headingley hosts four World Cup games and an Ashes Test, with the club’s turnover this year set to double.
The financial graph is proceeding favourably; even some of Yorkshire’s more perceptive critics from the floor were willing to give credit where credit is due.
Less unanimity, of course, attended the controversial new competition of the England and Wales Cricket Board, The Hundred which starts in summer 2020.
Apart from Surrey, the only county to vote against it, it would seem that roughly 99 per cent of cricket administrators are behind it and roughly 99 per cent of existing supporters against it, with Yorkshire no different to anywhere else.
Robin Smith, the Yorkshire chairman, did his usual job of presenting a difficult subject in such a sympathetic way that, by the time he had finished speaking, even some of The Hundred’s more ardent critics were probably wondering how to get tickets.
An exaggeration, perhaps, but were the well-spoken, enduringly genial Smith in charge of the Brexit process, for example, one suspects that the warring factions would not only soon find agreement but be making arrangements to go on holiday together.
“Like you, I viewed it initially as, ‘What has this got to do with cricket?’,” said Smith, empathising with the non-believer before showing him the road to Damascus.
“I started as a sceptic, I’ve ended up as a supporter. I think it’s going to be successful and, in the end, I think many of you will be (pleasantly) surprised.”
Impressively, Smith made no attempt to beat about the bush as to The Hundred’s raison d’etre. “It’s going to produce a lot of money,” he said, with Yorkshire and their county brethren to receive £1.3m per year. “The fact that that money will be coming in is a significant feature in the improvement in our finances that will enable us to repay our debt,” he added, arguing that the competition is ultimately essential to the survival of the smaller counties especially.
After Smith outlined Yorkshire’s support for the scheme, Mark Arthur, the club’s chief executive, added flesh to the bones.
Arthur and Tim Bostock, the Durham chief executive, will run the Headingley franchise, while Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, will be the director of cricket and Andy Dawson, the club’s commercial director, the general manager. Counties will be compensated for the loss of personnel.
A head coach has yet to be appointed but Arthur said it is likely to be someone of international pedigree; Darren Lehmann’s name is among those already doing the rumour mill.
Arthur added that after his own initial scepticism concerning The Hundred, he is now “totally engaged” and thinks that it will be “a roaring success”.
Moxon agreed, insisting that an extra spin-off is that young players will get a chance to play in the 50-over competition that runs concurrently.
“I see it as a great opportunity to find out about our younger players,” he said. “Although you’re going to have 90-odd players taken out of the county system (for The Hundred), that still leaves us with 300-odd available, and it will be good to see young players in action against the best remaining top county players.
“This competition is about getting the balance between making sure that we sustain the game while at the same time providing the traditional cricket lover with what they want to watch.
“Given the finances of the game generally, it’s a very tricky balance to achieve.”