Running a profitable cricket business has never been harder due to the sport’s increasingly popular Twenty20 (T20) format. Despite this, Surrey County Cricket Club, which has flirted with bankruptcy more than once, announced an annual pre-tax profit of £1.6m for the 2016/17 financial year. Here’s why.
With a duration of approximately three hours, the pace of T20 is ramped to an explosive degree and demands higher fitness levels from players. One could even argue its entertainment and fan experience adds to the intrigue.
The initial aim was to draw the attention of the younger generation, but its popularity has now gone beyond the concept of targeted age. That doesn’t mean it’s embraced by the overall cricket community though. Cricketer and coach Alex Tudor claimed it was killing off certain skills – specifically fast bowling.
Former cricketer Clive Lloyd believes players’ pursuit of money is another proverbial spanner in the works – it seems higher earnings are secured through international T20 leagues. He told the Guardian: “It’s as if playing for your country is no longer paramount.”
There’s obvious tension between test cricket and T20, drawing a mixed reaction from club owners, players, coaches and fans alike. But going with the times is Surrey County Cricket Club.
CEO Richard Gould explained to Real Business that he moved into cricket – having previously worked at Bristol City football club – in 2005 just as T20 was taking off.
“Its advent created numerous commercial opportunities and I brought my knowledge of what worked in football, especially in relation to membership and ticket sales, into cricket,” he explained. “There is, after all, lots of overlap between football and cricket fans.”
His ability to attract a crowd wasn’t the reason behind his wanting to work at Surrey County Cricket Club. There was an intrigue behind its heritage, with it having hosted numerous FA Cup finals and rugby internationals, not to mention the first Ashes Test.
Delving further into its background, Gould said: “Surrey dominated cricket in the post-war years, winning or coming second in the championship in ten out of 12 years from 1948. Now, the Oval is staging its 100th Test match, only the fourth venue in the world to join this exclusive club.
“It’s amazing given that I played at the Oval as an 11-year schoolboy, growing up in Surrey. It’s always been in my blood. I also went into school in Somerset and that was my first job in cricket so I suppose it was logical that my second job would be at Surrey!”
The club’s winning growth recipe can be found on the next page