Coronavirus could cost cricket £380m, ECB warn

A total of £380million and 800 days of cricket will be lost at all levels of the game if coronavirus prevents any cricket being played this summer.

Speaking at Tuesday morning’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee looking into how football, cricket and rugby are dealing with the pandemic, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said these figures were a “worst case scenario”. He also revealed there will be a loss of £100m regardless of whether behind-closed-doors matches are able to be played this summer. At present, no professional cricket will be played before 1 July.

The hope remains that England can play some form of international cricket under these arrangements. That would allow them to satisfy their broadcast obligations as part of deals with Sky and BBC which would account for the £280m difference.

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“Unquestionably, it’s the most significant financial challenge cricket has ever faced,” Harrison told the committee of MPs.

“We anticipate that with no cricket this year – as a worst-case scenario for our planning purposes – that could be as bad as £380million. That would be the loss of 800 days of cricket across all our professional clubs and the ECB as well.

“Our ability to mitigate the potential financial impact does require us to try, where it’s safe to do so and with government support, fill that hole. We are staring at a £100million-plus loss this year, whatever happens.”

The DCMS panel focussed most of their time on The Hundred. The new competition was delayed until 2021 and, on Monday, player contracts were cancelled with immediate effect.

Harrison has talked up The Hundred’s case as “even more important” in a post-coronavirus landscape with its lofty ambitions to regenerate county cricket and, crucially, bring new eyes and money into the game. And, naturally, he dismissed the idea put to him by a member of the committee that the competition was “a gamble”. Harrison in turn claimed it was absolutely essential in the ECB’s plans to grow cricket for the next five years “and beyond”.

“I disagree with your characterisation of The Hundred as a huge gamble. We’d sold 170,000 tickets in February for this year’s men’s and women’s Hundred. We took a decision that if we were operationally unable to deliver The Hundred this year. We couldn’t guarantee overseas players and coaches coming from different parts of the world. That a huge number of staff are furloughed.”

However Harrison ceded The Hundred’s would only register a profit if the yearly £1.3m guaranteed to each first-class county was excluded from calculations. That sum, he says, is not part of the ECB’s equation.

“The £1.3m every year to each county is a dividend not part of the P&L of the tournament. That is part of the deal, if you like, that was done with the counties to give the ECB permission to create a new tournament with all the objectives sitting behind it. It’s is not linked to the P&L it’s a dividend that is a crucial part of the agreement that we have with the first-class counties to deliver inspiring generations to the strategy for the game into 18 first-class counties around the country.”

Though there were reports of money being put aside for the women’s game, Harrison was unable to give any guarantees that women’s cricket will not face further trials following the postponement of their Hundred competition.

The sliver of good news that there are plans to giving recreational cricket the green light should schools reopen: “We believe we can work with government to enable junior cricket to be played with coaches outdoors, according to social distancing rules that are likely to be in place. We are a non-contact sport and we believe we feel we can do that.”

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