MCC projects at risk if Lord's loses two-Test status – Brewer

Mushtaq Ahmed rings the five-minute bell alongside MCC chief executive Derek Brewer 

MCC may not be able to sustain its funding of its cricket development programmes if the ECB goes through with plans to reduce the number of Tests hosted by England each year.

Lord’s, which is owned and run by MCC, currently hosts two Tests and an ODI nearly every year. The income from those games enables them to fund the MCCU programme, the MCC Young Cricketers scheme and the MCC teams which travel the world in a bid to spread the popularity of the game. The overall cost of such programmes is understood to exceed £1million a year. They also make a sizeable annual donation to Chance to Shine.

But the ECB is currently considering plans to reduce the number of Tests hosted in the British summer from seven to six. And while they hope the shortfall will be partially off-set by income from the new-team T20 competition, it is unlikely to entirely compensate.

MCC insist that, even if the number of Tests played by England each summer is reduced to six, they should continue to host two. However, The Oval is also making a strong case for hosting a Test every summer – the ground could, subject to planning permission, soon have the largest capacity of all English cricket venues and has an excellent record of selling tickets. Given that it is just four miles down the road, the ECB may be reluctant to allocate half their home Tests to central London locations. Certainly it would leave the likes of Headingley, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, Old Trafford, The Ageas Bowl and The Swalec – most of which also have business plans built upon the regular hosting of international cricket – uneasy.

“In every year that there are two touring teams, it is important that we should host each of them,” Derek Brewer, the outgoing MCC chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo. “Even if there are only six Tests a summer, our view is that we should host two and London should host three. We are confident of putting forward a very good case to support that view.”

That case is sure to include the MCC’s record of ticket sales. Whether allocated Tests in September or May, Lord’s is almost always a sell-out (the capacity is around 29,000), with the recent match against West Indies a good example. The game only lasted three days, but each of them was a sell-out and more than 22,000 tickets had been sold for the fourth day.

While most other clubs could only dream of such figures – or the hospitality income that comes with them – no other clubs have the spending commitments of Lord’s. Not only do the club have continued aspirations to protect and propagate the game, but they have plans for a redevelopment programme that will cost well over £100million.

Perhaps most valuable of all these commitments is the MCCU programme. This scheme, which costs the club around £370,000 a year, prevents young people from being forced to choose between further education and a playing career. Around 25% of England-qualified players currently in county cricket came through the scheme, despite the fact that the ECB does not finance it at all. Notable alumni include Andrew Strauss and, more recently, players such as Zafar Ansari, Toby Roland-Jones, Sam Billings, Heather Knight and Tom Westley.

The MCC Young Cricketers programme, meanwhile, offers opportunities to late developers or those who may have missed out on county recognition – the likes of Jamie Porter and Dawid Malan are recent graduates – while the MCC teams that play around the world are credited with helping the development of fast emerging cricket nations such as Nepal and Afghanistan. MCC plays more than 500 games a year.

“There is so much good work undertaken by the MCC for which we do not gain the credit we deserve,” Brewer continued. “Whether it is our community projects or our efforts to spread the game.

“I’m not saying we will chop this or change that. But if our allocation of games is reduced – and consequently, if our income is reduced – we will, of course, have to look at everything we do. And yes, we will have to cut our cloth accordingly. Our cricket expenditure is more than £1million a year.

“Our business plan, including the redevelopment, is predicated on us hosting two Tests a year. It is sustainable if we only host one, but we may have to look at alternative funding sources.”

At present it appears the model for the new-look season (from 2020 onwards) will see England host six Tests, six ODIs and six T20Is a year. The allocation of major matches for 2020 onwards, and a decision taken over which grounds will host the new-team T20 competition, is due to be announced in the first few months of 2018.

The ECB are also party to an on-going review of the MCCU scheme. It is possible they will consider it a valuable part of the ‘player pathway’ and allocate some funding towards it.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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