Cricket

Could community ownership save county cricket?

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After six years of financial turmoil, Portsmouth FC are finally into the black, having announced that their new strategy of community ownership has cleared them of debt within eighteen months.

Struggling cricket clubs, particularly in Division Two, could gain untold benefits from widening their shareholders

If there is one thing the domestic season has confirmed, it is that the smaller clubs are faced with too large a mountain to climb.

The two sides who had been promoted to Division One – Lancashire as champions, and Northants as runners-up – quickly found themselves rooted to the basement of the top tier.

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Portsmouth have become the epitome of a financial destitution, but they are now debt-free two years ahead of schedule.

Staying afloat

A growing sense of expectancy is now being directed to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to support counties who are finding it difficult to keep the ship afloat.

The ECB simply cannot afford to pump any more into the flailing two-tier system, but Portsmouth have proven that it can be done without outside help by a change in the way the club is run.

In spite of constant attempts to revamp the County Championship, which is currently sponsored by LV, the majority of counties complain of financial problems.

Leicestershire have an extremely small playing budget and it is therefore unsurprising that they have endured such a traumatic couple of seasons.

Worcestershire have even been faced with the prospect of going into administration due to flood damage to their ground at New Road.

ECB investment

While the ECB continues to invent new tournaments and formats, such as the Natwest T20 Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup, both of which attract far greater sponsorship, it is not getting to the root of the problems in the four-day games.

It remains a cliché that counties can make more money from the ticket sales of one T20 game than from an entire season of County Championship cricket.

Naturally, other options – such as moving start days to Thursdays, as is done in Tests to make the most of the weekend crowd – should also be explored.

However, if counties can find a big enough support base to make community ownership both worthwhile and viable, it could be the beginning of the end of domestic cricket’s woes.

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