Coronavirus: Streamlined Worcestershire may cope with cricket lockdown, says chairman

By Ged Scott & Trevor OwensBBC Sport
New Road
Worcestershire are currently scheduled to welcome the West Indies to New Road for a tour match starting on 28 May

Chairman Fanos Hira says Worcestershire may be able to cope better with the coronavirus crisis than some of English cricket's generally wealthier counties.

The Pears have been without a chief executive since Matt Rawnsley left in October "with immediate effect".

Since then, business affairs have been overseen by Hira, who outlined the benefits of financial streamlining.

"We're the only county that doesn't have a six-figure paid CEO," he told BBC Hereford & Worcester.

"We don't have a director of cricket either, probably on similar pay, so we are a lean structure.

"In the past where it has probably been disadvantageous to counties with non-Test match grounds, now we're not reliant on the vast amounts of hospitality income or big functions that occur in these vast venues.

"So, in many respects, although the impact on us is great, for many other counties with higher fixed costs that impact could be a lot greater. Perhaps it's an advantage to us during this period of enormous uncertainty."

Season abandonment may mean 'seven-figure hit'

Next weekend, on Easter Sunday, cricket lovers should have seen the start of the 111th County Championship.

Instead, the 2020 season has been put on hold until 28 May at the earliest.

As Sussex chief executive Rob Andrew suggested on Thursday, all English counties must now consider the possibility that no cricket gets played at all this summer - with the Championship itself, the oldest but least watched competition, most under threat in any potential reworking of the fixture list.

"The impact of that would be enormous," said Hira. "It would be a seven-figure hit - over £1m - if that were to occur. But once you identify what the problem is then you take pre-emptive steps to mitigate it. It's fair to say that the club can cope with that.

"We've got a plan to see us through but it is extremely challenging. The outlook's really uncertain so what we've been doing is running a whole range of scenarios."

After the flood

Worcestershire's New Road home spent over 60 days under water this winter
Worcestershire's New Road home spent over 60 days under water this winter

Worcestershire had already been badly hit this winter by the latest flooding of the county ground at New Road, their home since they staged their first Championship game there in 1899.

The Pears had already been forced to move their first Championship home game in late April against Sussex to Chester Road, Kidderminster.

That game will not now go ahead but Hira says that, if they do get the green light to play at some stage this summer by the authorities, the enforced break will at least have bought Pears groundsman Tim Packwood and staff unexpected extra preparation time.

"The fact that cricket isn't going to start until June at the earliest means we've got time to get our ground ready," he said.

Hira also confirmed that 30 of their 45 non-playing staff have been registered on the government's furlough scheme, while the other 15 have volunteered to take an equivalent pay cut.

Changes again at New Road

The low-budget Pears have had a chief executive for almost two decades since Mark Newton came in to replace long-serving county secretary Mike Vockins in June 2001.

That role was then filled largely by Newton (until August 2010), then former Worcestershire all-rounder David Leatherdale until he departed to join the Professional Cricketers' Association in March 2016.

Tom Scott then took interim charge for two years before the appointment in March 2018 of former Worcestershire left-arm spinner Rawnsley, who parted company with the county on 25 October.

Worcestershire said then that Hira would take over on an interim basis, and that on-field matters would continue to be handled by the cricket steering group led by vice-chairman Paul Pridgeon.

That chief executive role has remained unfilled now for over five months.

Pridgeon, who also played for Worcestershire from 1972 to 1989, has become an increasing presence since returning to New Road on a regular basis following his long-standing role as head of cricket at Shrewsbury School, with whom he unearthed a succession of talented signings for his old county.

Worcestershire also have a senior backroom team of Kevin Sharp, their head of player and coaches development, First XI coach Alex Gidman, who is also due to be seconded to a role with Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred later this summer, and head bowling coach Alan Richardson.

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