An open letter from the Chair of Lancashire Cricket
Chair Andy Anson's address to the Club's Members and supporters from the upcoming edition of Spin Magazine...
It has certainly been a busy few months since I took on the role as Chair at this great cricket club, back in November. As I said at the time of my announcement, my immediate focus has been on securing the short-term future of Lancashire Cricket and continuing to help support Daniel Gidney and the Executive Team in guiding the Club through the COVID-19 crisis.
As it will be across the entire UK, the year 2021 is going to be all about recovery for Lancashire Cricket and Emirates Old Trafford. The UK’s vaccination programme continues to progress from strength to strength and we feel there is a real light at the end of the tunnel which allows us to plan for a brighter and more secure future.
On the back of the Government’s latest roadmap announcement, we are optimistic about the prospect of crowds returning to Emirates Old Trafford. We will ensure we are ready to welcome you back to the ground as soon as the appropriate time arrives. As with all major sports clubs across the country, matchday income represents a significant part of our revenue and is a vital component of the Club’s return to normality. We expect to welcome Members back into the ground for the LV=County Championship fixture against Yorkshire, with the game starting on the 27 May, and what an occasion that promises to be.
As we all know, the Club’s off-field revenues are also hugely important to Lancashire Cricket’s overall business model. We have some of the most versatile conference and events spaces in the country and this coupled with the Hilton Garden Inn hotel will allow us to continue to explore ways of embracing the opportunities which the future presents us with the anticipated sports, social and events bounce back, that will follow once restrictions are eased.
Away from the pandemic, I have enjoyed the task of acquainting myself with several areas of the Club and the broader business and I am pleased to update you on the positive progression we continue to make.
A key area of the focus is continuing to build on the relationship with our loyal Membership. The loyalty displayed by the 85% of Members who chose to take up the Club’s option of a Platinum Membership, keeping their money within Lancashire Cricket and, in turn, helping us to protect vital financial resources was hugely appreciated. Ultimately, when our cash-flow was under pressure, this helped us protect Lancashire Cricket when we needed it most. It was so heartening to see so many Members support us. We do however appreciate that not all Members were in a financial position to do so and that is something we are very much aware of and understand.
Back in February, we had a very productive virtual meeting with Colin Gore and Chris Bent from the Members’ Representative Group (MRG). The relationship between the Club and the MRG is clearly very strong and, for the Board and staff, it is key in helping us to understand the important issues that are arising from the Membership. We are a Members’ Club and that is very different to being a season ticket holder, for example, at a football or rugby club. It means much more, and it is vital that you feel part of the Club. The MRG will continue to challenge us to ensure we are doing the very best for our Members. We urge Members to get in touch with the group, who can then take up the relevant issues with the Club. You can do this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and your queries will be passed on to the MRG.
The growth of our Membership is a key area of focus for us moving forward and was discussed at length during our most recent Board meeting. Internally, a lot of work is taking place into looking at our current Membership offering and its benefits, and what Membership packages could look like in the future. The Club is also focusing its attentions on the recreational game in Lancashire - where we know there is a strong passion for the game of cricket - as well as continuing to engage juniors in schools through the excellent work and delivery from the Lancashire Cricket Foundation.
The next stage of the development of Emirates Old Trafford is something that we are keen to press on with, once things start to get back to some sort of normality, and a modified planning application – from the one originally published in January 2020 - has now been submitted to Trafford Council. We are anticipating that the development will include a Heritage Centre along with a Digital Red Rose Experience and further Member facilities which will include an elevated view across the ground, all designed to improve the visitor experience inside our stadium. An important element of the application focuses on the expansion of the on-site Hilton Garden Inn hotel, to take us to 250 rooms. The hotel has been a huge revenue driver for the Club since opening its doors in 2017 and this expansion will enable us to drive further growth, in terms of major conference and event bookings as well as matchday hospitality, which will play a vital role in securing the future of Lancashire Cricket moving forward.
On the pitch, Paul Allott and Glen Chapple have been hard at work throughout the winter preparing our players for the 2021 campaign, which is now underway. As a Club, we are pleased with the revised red ball structure agreed upon by the 18 First-Class counties, which will build on the success of last summer’s Bob Willis Trophy and allow counties to compete on two fronts in a conference-style system. As many of you will know, the first part of the red ball summer has welcomed the return of the LV= County Championship in a seeded group-stage format. This will then progress to a Divisional stage - which is determined by performance - before the First-Class season comes to an end with a showpiece five-day Lord’s final - to contest the Bob Willis Trophy. At Lancashire Cricket we are supportive of this new system as it will allow Club’s to develop their younger players – without the lingering fears of relegation – which can only be viewed as a positive for the long-term future of the game and the health of both the Lancashire and England squad moving forward.
Success on the pitch for Lancashire is hugely important for me and everyone involved at Lancashire. We know how desperate Members and supporters are to see the Club compete for trophies and silverware. With the squad, and resources, we have at our disposal we expect to be doing exactly that. I still remember the County Championship success of 2011 vividly, how it was celebrated and how it brought the Red Rose community together. Likewise, at Edgbaston six years ago when we won the T20 Blast competition for the first time. They are fantastic memories, even better if you were there on the day, as many of you will have been, and we need to experience more of that in the coming years.
As Members will read in the Annual Accounts, which will land with Membership packs and Spin Magazine next week, we can reflect positively on how the Club has navigated its way through the obvious challenges of COVID-19. From mid-March 2020 onwards, our normal revenue streams completely stopped, yet we have managed to make it through the year in a better position than we had expected at this time last year. We have had to make some difficult commercial decisions, minimise expenditure throughout the business and utilise fully the Furlough scheme. I would like to thank Metro Bank for their continued support and assistance over the past year as well as our family of commercial partners – particularly headline sponsor Emirates – for their continued and unwavering support.
What also helped us financially this year was the successful hosting of 21 days of ‘behind-closed-doors’ international cricket at Emirates Old Trafford which I would also like to touch on. Not only did that help financially for Lancashire Cricket, but it enabled the ECB to fulfil their broadcast deal with Sky Sports, which was critical to securing and safeguarding the future of the game in this country at all levels.
2020 saw an unprecedented amount of international cricket played with England, West Indies, Pakistan and Australia all living on-site in our Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at various times. Our thanks must go to the ECB for the opportunity, while huge credit must also go to Steve Davies and his Operations Team for ensuring that none of our on-site guests tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the duration of the summer. Special mention must be made of Matt Merchant and his Grounds Team for the unbelievable high quality of pitches as we became the first venue in world cricket to host three consecutive Test matches – something the Club can look back on with extreme pride.
I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of Chief Executive Daniel Gidney, who has led the Club with dedication alongside his Executive Team, who have each made significant contributions to securing the future of Lancashire Cricket during these challenging times.
And finally, I would like to finish with a message of thanks to you, the Members for your support. It is hugely appreciated by everyone at the Club and we are all looking forward to welcoming you back through the gates at Emirates Old Trafford this summer as soon as we possibly can.
Lancashire Cricket, Chair