'We've expressed an interest in being one of the grounds chosen' - Les Platts, Lancashire Chairman
Acting Chairman Les Platts has confirmed that Lancashire are waiting on a decision from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on whether Emirates Old Trafford will host behind-closed-doors international matches this summer.
The ECB is planning to host series against West Indies and Pakistan at ‘bio secure’ venues, with England players returning to individual training this week ahead of an announcement of a training squad next week.
Lancashire have expressed an interest in being one of the grounds chosen and the Club hopes to have positive news within the next week.
“We have expressed our interest to the ECB and we’re waiting for a decision on that,” Les Platts said during a Zoom press conference earlier this week.
“We’re continuing to plan on the basis it will happen, so we’ve been doing extensive planning now for behind-closed-doors cricket and we’re hopeful that we’ll have the green light soon and we’ll have cricket going again in July.
“You never know, later in the season we might be having some spectators back in again. It must be possible for us to device a scheme when we’ve got a capacity of 23,000 to have some spectators in with appropriate protocols. We are hoping we might get that towards the end of the season.
“Obviously, we hope that we’ll have cricket that they can watch and listen to before that, but if at the end of the year we can get cricket with spectators, that will be brilliant. I’m not guaranteeing it by any means, but we’re hoping and planning that we might be able to get some of that in September.”
Emirates Old Trafford is thought to be one of the front-runners because of its on-site Hilton Garden Inn hotel, but the exact protocols for what makes a ‘bio secure’ environment are not yet clear.
As a result, the full costs of producing one are not yet known, but Platts says that Lancashire would receive income from staging matches.
“It is still to be negotiated,” he added. “There will be some income coming to us. I don’t think the Club and game would expect us to be profiteering at these difficult times but there will have to be compensation that is fair to us.
“There will have to be cost recovery if the hotel is being used, there will be income coming to the Club that will help.”
The Red Rose enjoyed bumper incomes of £17.5m from hosting international cricket during last year’s World Cup and Ashes, and also £8.4m from conferencing, events and the hotel, which is underpinning the Club’s off-field business strategy.
Platts, who has stepped up to the role of Acting Chairman following the death of David Hodgkiss OBE, has warned that the Club's impressive financial state will merely allow them to see off the perils caused by the current crisis.
“When I became treasurer back in 2013, we had long-term ambitions that we might get a revenue up to £20m,” Platts added. “It almost couldn’t be better than that; it was a brilliant year and it’s transformed the finances of the club.
“You thought it would provide the platform for many years to come. As it is, it has provided the platform to help us survive 2020, when otherwise we might have struggled a lot more.
“It has put us in a position where we are absorbing the stresses and costs at the moment way better than we would have been able to, but the way that it’s going, we still need income to start again.
“If we don’t get cricket and the hotel and The Point going again this year, we’re going to have to take more severe measures. The Club will survive one way or another, but if things don’t get going again it will be tougher.”
Platts also discussed Lancashire’s decision not to furlough the playing staff at Emirates Old Trafford. It is still a decision that is being monitored on a month-by-month basis.
“It’s a judgement call and it’s difficult to say what’s right and what’s wrong about this,” he said. “Our feeling was that first of all, they’re elite sportsmen and this is a job retention scheme. We were uneasy about using a job retention scheme for elite sportsmen.
“We also wanted the players to continue to be involved with the Club, and you’ll see that they’ve been actively involved in training videos, in social media, in reaching out to Members. They’ve been actively engaged with the Members even though they’ve been at home.
“We wanted to retain that involvement and also retain the flexibility to be able to bring them back in for training as and when that’s possible. Of course, that is now looking possible hopefully over the next few weeks and we’ve got that flexibility to be able to bring our players back as and when we wish.
“Players are aware that it’s not a permanent decision not to furlough them, it’s what we felt was right at the time and we’re reconsidering it each month,” he said. “We’re still hopeful that we will get some cricket this summer and that they’ll be out on the ground earning their money, rather than being furloughed at home, but that option remains available.”
Platts also paid a personal tribute to former Chairman, David Hodgkiss OBE who passed away in March.
“He had been instrumental in building the club,” Platts reminisced of his predecessor, who was 71.
“But more than that, he was a friend to everyone. He had a warmth, a confidence, an optimism. He believed in the club, he loved Lancashire.
“He wanted to grow it into being the best cricket club in the world; he was ambitious and engaging and he will be hugely missed.”