Is the financial future bright for Lancashire?

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The Independent Online

There is a new stand-cum-conference centre at Old Trafford called The Point. The obvious response on seeing it for the first time in all its dubious, red-blooded glory is: what's the point?

Well, the point is that it may well help to drag Lancashire out of the financial mire. Before it has even opened The Point has £1m worth of business, much needed since Lancashire's annual report and accounts, released yesterday, showed that they lost almost £500,000 last year and have a net debt approaching £8m.

In a hard-hitting report, the county club's treasurer, David Hodgkiss, was scathing about the amount of cash being bid by Test match grounds to ensure they are able actually to stage Test matches. But Lancashire have refused to bid what they see as unreasonable amounts and thus missed out on a Test last year.

Hodgkiss said: "With the impact of the recession and general downward trend of cricket revenues across the game, our consistent view that the level of staging fees being bid was unsustainable is now being shown to be correct as demonstrated by the reports from other Test match grounds, merely vindicating our strategy."

Equally, as Jim Cumbes, the chief executive, acknowledged, Old Trafford needs international cricket. "We could I suppose have settled back and just been a successful county cricket club but it's not just about Lancashire. The North-west needs Test cricket."

Lancashire's redevelopment is on course and The Point will be seen by millions of cricket lovers around the world during the Test match which starts today and the one-day international against Australia next month. Cumbes pleaded for time before judgements were made on it.

But only a trained architectural eye would not be offended by The Point as it now stands. The building, if that is what it is, dwarfs the red-brick pavilion, by which it stands, the only truly splendid feature at Old Trafford for many a year. It is a shade of red presumably to mark the red rose which is the proud symbol of the county and it appears to have been built in corrugated iron for reasons known only to the designers. Perhaps the material is meant to be redolent of Lancastrian allotment holders' sheds. Whatever, it is to have a twin soon on the other side of the pavilion.

City or franchise cricket will have to come sooner rather than later because the fact remains that Lancashire, like so many counties with a wonderful part in the cricketing history of this country, are in financial strife. The accounts paint a picture replicated in many other places: Twenty20 revenues down by 27 per cent nationwide, the catering surplus down by almost 75 per cent.

A Take That pop concert provided more than 15 per cent of income. To allow cricket to be played, that is the way of the future.