Friday, March 24th, 2017

Audit Chairman Says “outlook Is Positive” As County Gets To Grips With Debts

Audit Chairman Says “outlook Is Positive” As County Gets To Grips With Debts

Worcestershire CCC audit chairman Fanos Hira told members at the AGM that "the outlook is positive" and that were "real strands of encouragement" now the club is getting to grips with reducing its debts of £5.2 million.

He said the overall debt had already been reduced by about £1 million during 2016 and the first quarter of the current year with the immediate focus on "reducing loan obligations."

Hira explained that a reduced loss of £71,339 for the last financial year was down to a major restructuring of operations carried out by new CEO Tom Scott and the club's commercial team.

Lower rates of interest had also been successfully secured on some of the club's debts.

Hira said: "If you look at what we did in 2016, and the first quarter of this year, we've already reduced our debt by about £1 million.

"We are making big inroads into that which is encouraging and it is a prudent and appropriate way to run our business.

"The immediate focus is very much on reducing loan obligations.

"I'd like to reassure you that the board is confident the steps taken in 2016 and the changes it anticipates it in 2017 will enable the club to not only reduce its debt but enable it to improve its utilisation of its excellent facilities but also properly invest in cricket for the future.

"We do not see any impediments in us achieving this, any of these things, and we believe the outlook is positive."

Hira added: "It would be naive of the board not to recognise that there are significant challenges ahead.

"Membership income in 2016 fell quite sharply compared to 2015 and part of that can be explained by the club being relegated.

"Sport is a competitive world and it is not just Worcestershire CCC that struggled with year on declines in membership.

"However, I think there are real strands of encouragement.

"The season starts soon and the vast bulk of membership is already in. It is encouraging to report membership levels are up quite sharply compared to what was reported for 2016. That is a strand of optimism.

"There are still significant amounts to do in catering and commercial but the board is confident that with utilisation and a real clampdown on costs that Tom (Scott) and his team have done will mean seeing evidence of improvement. Again early evidence is encouraging.

"The message is yes, there is an underlying loss but the issues are being addressed and we would expect a significant improvement in 2017 onwards."

New County CEO Tom Scott said: "Commercially I think we've been left behind by the rugby club (Worcester Warriors) and we need to start making comparisons to them.

"I looked at the structure from a business point of view and I felt it was tired and change was required.

"There is now a dynamism and an understanding of where we stand financially and commercially so that is quite exciting for me.

"We made some changes to roles and responsibilities and Jon Graham is now Managing Director as an example of that.

"Many of these decisions were made on the basis of growth and what does the structure look like as we go forward.

"We need to grow because we need a sustainable base.

"I can assure you every pound of debt the club has got is now being addressed and repaid. That makes me feel very good.

"If we do get money in the future from the new T20, I genuinely hope that money goes into cricket. That is my vision of that money, not to pay off debt.

"We've already got a debt plan where through normal trading, we will pay off that debt.

"We haven't borrowed any money since I've been here and we don't intend borrowing any more money. There won't be anymore loans. The focus is on reducing the debt."