Cricket: Red Rose stays out of the red: Derek Hodgson on the reasons why Lancashire's finances are in a healthy state despite the recession

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The Independent Online
WHO, in the worst recession for 60 years, saw his wage bill rise above pounds 2m, the income from his principal operation drop by pounds 89,000, spent pounds 800,000 on new construction and yet still declared a profit for this year of pounds 68,950?

This high achiever is Derek Peaker, honorary treasurer of Lancashire County Cricket Club, whose remarkable figures emerge from an area, county cricket, not renowned for budgetary wizardry or high profits. Few summers pass without at least one county club tottering on the brink and there are experts who believe that five of the 18 first-class clubs will not see the end of the century.

Lancashire, at their current rate of progress, could lead the surviving 13 into unparalleled prosperity as the Victorian structure of the Championship, created and sustained by wealthy families of leisure, is finally reshaped as a mass spectator sport.

Peaker retired as managing director of a successful tyre company and has since been making the wheels go round at Old Trafford. Even he must have been surprised by the 1992 figures but as is the way of treasurers, he confines himself to 'a satisfactory result'.

Lancashire's playing record, at a time of high expectation, was poor, attendances dropped, the weather was soggy. Money had to be spent on two of the stands at Old Trafford that were found to be collapsing, one having to be rebuilt at a cost of pounds 800,000. Income from Test and County Cricket Board sponsorships declined. And yet. . . the membership, the highest in the country at 13,500, was closed for a fifth successive year. Lancashire's own sponsorships were added to, a notable feat on the part of the marketing manager, Jim Cumbes, at a time when local companies were counting farthings.

A gamble with two concerts by Simply Red, in July, raised pounds 150,000 for the club and did no damage, as was feared, to the playing area or the stands.

'This is all very well', says the man who sits in the pavilion with a red rose in his buttonhole, 'but what about the team?' Wasim Akram returns next summer, leading batsmen are unlikely to have as many injuries as last season and an interesting development may be seen on the square. Not a few Lancashire players thought Peter Marron's pitches (Marron is Groundsman of the Year for a second time) were too good to get a result, especially in three day-cricket.

Marron has been experimenting with different types of grass and with the full programme of four- day games, Lancashire expect their battery of spinners - Watkinson, Barnett, Fitton and Yates, now being coached by Fred Titmus - to become a force.

Lancashire have also resolved last summer's dichotomy in team management by appointing David Hughes manager: the former captain, David Lloyd, is the new coach and John Savage will scout. The captain, Neil Fairbrother, was not, as was reported at the time, involved in these decisions, but welcomed the new regime: 'I only played a couple of games under David Lloyd's captaincy back in 1983 but he left an impression and I can't think of a better bloke to be the cricket specialist. David Hughes looks after the administrative side of the team. It has the makings of a proper Lancashire partnership.'

Lancashire lost two former captains from the committee last year, with the death of Ken Grieves and Brian Statham's resignation, so the return of David Lloyd, and the likely election of Clive Lloyd to the committee would restore, in a sense, the status quo. Cedric Rhoades, the former chairman, used to say of Clive Lloyd: 'He's a good man to have around the place'.

Traditionalists among the membership will be pleased that for a second time, after 1989, Lancashire will provide the Oxbridge captains this year, John Crawley, of Cambridge, and Jason Gallian (who scored seven centuries in eight second XI innings last year) of Oxford. Archie MacLaren would have been pleased about that.