Tom Harrison warns ‘we’re not out of the woods yet’ as ECB reports £16.1m losses

The England and Wales Cricket Board has reported losses of GBP 16.1million in its annual accounts, with chief executive Tom Harrison warning the continued effects of coronavirus means “we’re not out of the woods yet”.

The ECB’s financial results for the year ending January 31 make for sobering reading, with last year’s GBP 6.5m profit dramatically reversed and the organisation’s cash reserves dwindling to just GBP 2.2m against the backdrop of the pandemic. Just five years ago, at the time of the 2016 results, those reserves stood at GBP 73million.

Prior to the onset of the global health crisis the ECB had expected the past year to be characterised by rising revenues and expanded investment in the game.

Instead it faced a new landscape that saw the postponed launch of The Hundred and a rise of GBP 27m in administrative costs, much of which could be attributed to setting up the bio-secure bubbles which allowed international cricket to go ahead last summer.

Thanks to the willingness of touring teams from the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia, those bubble environments at The Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford salvaged the ECB’s bumper broadcast income, but overall revenue was down GBP 21m to GBP 207m. Previous estimates that the wider game in England and Wales had lost GBP 100m against projected revenues have also been reiterated.

In the foreword to the accompanying annual review, Harrison gives voice to concerns that despite the steady lifting of societal restrictions, the forthcoming international programme may not be a full return to business as usual.

He wrote: “Over the past 12 months we have had to confront the biggest financial crisis the game has ever experienced. And despite the optimism around at the time of writing, it is clear we’re not out of the woods yet.

“Very significant challenges lie ahead. While we are hopeful and optimistic about the 2021 summer, we don’t yet know what the implications are for the return of crowds or indeed on ‘bubbles’ for this season.

“We are building plans with the experience from 2020 and taking forward the lessons we learnt. Although we are navigating through uncertainty to which we have become accustomed, our ambition for the 2021 season sets a very high bar – we cannot lose another year of progress.”

Elsewhere in the financial statement Harrison’s concerns are revisited.

“The continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the 2021 season is likely to be significant,” reads one passage.

“The government roadmap shows signs of optimism but is by no means an assurance we will see a return of full crowds in the summer due to social distancing restrictions. The uncertainty over the operational delivery model for the 2021 season has resulted in a number of alternative scenarios being explored.”

The slender size of the reserves may prove the biggest concern, with a once-healthy rainy day fund perilously close to being emptied, having lost around 97 per cent of its 2016 value. The report duly predicts “equity reserves in the short term are scheduled to remain significantly below the desired 40 per cent of turnover”.

Major potential risks identified to the business include loss of cricket due to unforeseen events such as terrorism, disease or national mourning and “significant breakdown in relations with overseas governing bodies”.