Lancashire offers to stage Test cricket during crisis

Lancashire, a Manchester-based county, has returned record financial results and put itself in the frame to host Tests during the English summer.

Old Trafford

Old Trafford was originally due to host England's second Test against Pakistan, which was scheduled to start on August 7.   -  Getty Images

Coronavirus has left the English cricket season in limbo but Lancashire was dealt a devastating personal blow when it lost chairman David Hodgkiss.

Just weeks later the Manchester-based county has returned record financial results -- a fitting legacy for Hodgkiss, who died in late March at the age of 71 after contracting the virus.

And it has put itself in the frame to host Tests during the English summer.

Lancashire, which chose not to follow other counties in furloughing players during the COVID-19 crisis, has announced its highest-ever annual turnover of £34 million ($41 million).

EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) for the Red Rose county in 2019 was £7.6 million, a 10-fold increase since 2015 and a record for a first-class county.

“Excluding minority interests and one-off legacies, it is absolutely a record,” CEO Daniel Gidney told AFP. “It's a very proud day for the club.

“A hundred percent it is David's legacy. He was a mentor, a friend as well as a boss. With his construction background, without him the £60 million redevelopment (of the ground) would not have happened.

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“The board was the driving force but he was the centre of that.

“For me a business problem to solve is like any other problem such as a recession but when you lose a friend it is an emotional kick in the gut.”

Test hosts?

Gidney said Lancashire, with a Hilton hotel on the site of its Old Trafford ground, was still in a position to host Tests this year.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hopes it can kickstart a season delayed by coronavirus by rescheduling the three-Test series between England and the West Indies that was meant to take place in June, in July.

Australia and Pakistan are also scheduled to tour England in the coming months.

Old Trafford was originally due to host the second Test against Pakistan, which was scheduled to start on August 7.

Should the current lockdown be relaxed sufficiently to allow cricket to go ahead, Tests could be played behind closed doors at “bio-secure” grounds with on-site accommodation such as Old Trafford.

That would allow players and officials to be monitored while restricting their access to the outside world.

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“We have made a formal expression of interest to the ECB,” said Gidney. “We believe we have the capability, the experience and facilities on site in supporting them put on a bio-secure event.”

Lancashire is also thinking big for when cricket can return in earnest -- including plans to promote itself in the game's biggest market.

“David's legacy is to complete the ground redevelopment, a new stand, another hotel and work with the local authority on a leisure centre,” said Gidney.

“We also decided after last year's World Cup match between India and Pakistan to look east and an Indian growth strategy -- to make Lancashire the second Indian team so if the fan say supports Mumbai Indians then their English team is us.

“We are looking at both building the fanbase and players playing for Lancashire.

“The objective is definitely getting more Asian voices involved in English cricket -- it can only be a good thing for the game.”

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