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Coronavirus outbreak: County cricket latest

The COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic has led to the start of the English season being put back until at least May 28, and left many counties facing a potentially damaging shortfall in finances. Most are expected to take advantage of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. How has your club responded to the situation? Here we will keep track of ongoing developments.

Derbyshire

The club has been operating with a skeleton staff since first-team squad returned home from their tour of Zimbabwe. Reported record profits in 2019.

Durham

Veteran seamer Chris Rushworth will run a half-marathon to raise funds for the Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust, who are providing food and care for families dealing with cancer in the North East amid the coronavirus outbreak and beyond.

If further lockdown measures are introduced before May 1, Rushworth is prepared to complete the run in his back garden. “Hopefully at the moment it will be around the streets and parks where I live,” he said. “If restrictions are in place then I’ll have to do it in my back garden. Someone did the maths and said it was 952 laps of the garden, so that will be interesting.”

CEO Tim Bostock thinks that bigger counties are more likely to suffer significantly as a result of the crisis due to the fact a lower percentage of their income comes from the ECB, with events, conferences and hotels all contributing significantly in a typical year.

“They’ve got businesses that rely on income outside of ECB regular monthly funding – particularly I can think of Lancashire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire, the Ageas Bowl,” Bostock told talkSPORT. “They’ve done the right thing, they’ve diversified so that they can survive without ECB income, but what that has meant is… that has fallen off the edge of a cliff through no fault of their own. That is a major challenge.

“A club like Durham – a larger percentage of our income comes from the guaranteed ECB income as a result of the new television deal, and therefore we are much less exposed. I can confidently say that what’s coming in is more than what’s going out.

“We absolutely are in a position where we don’t need to lay anybody off, and we don’t need to reduce anybody’s salary. Rather than reducing headcount and making savings, we took the view that we would support [our staff].

The club have closed the Riverside to the public and non-essential staff, and also offered use of the ground to the local council and the NHS.

Essex

Alastair Cook has said that he would prefer there not to be a County Championship this season if the alternative is a less “meaningful” reduced campaign. Chief executive Derek Bowden has suggested a series of regional first-class competitions could be played instead.

Squad members including Tom Westley, Simon Harmer, Shane Snater and Rishi Patel spent the morning of April 6 preparing over 1000 hot meals for NHS staff across 13 hospitals across Essex and London, and the elderly and vulnerable.

Westley said: “It’s really important that we go into the local community and help where it’s both safe and possible. The key workers on the frontline have been doing an amazing job, so if we can support them in any way, we will.”

Glamorgan

The club announced on Friday that it had decided to furlough “a large number” of employees and that it would operate with a skeleton staff for the foreseeable future.

Chief executive Hugh Morris said: “This is a challenging time and we have taken this decision to protect jobs at the club, and to help our valued staff members. It’s important that we are able to preserve jobs at Glamorgan during such a difficult financial period for the club, and by using the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, we can help both the club and staff.”

Kent

Executive directors have voluntarily agreed to a short-term pay cut of 20% and are in talks with local council to discuss terms of a loan repayment, among other measures.

“We feel these are exceptional circumstances,” chief executive Simon Storey told ESPNcricinfo. “We will find a way through this for Kent.”

The club has confirmed that it intends to furlough the majority of its non-playing staff under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme from April 6 and operate with a skeleton staff to ensure that essential work can still be completed.

Lancashire

The club confirmed on April 7 that it does not intend to furlough playing staff. “None of [the club’s training regime] would be available to the players if they were to be furloughed, and it is our intention not to do so, whilst keeping the situation under review,” said Paul Allott, the director of cricket.

“Ultimately, we have to ensure they are as ready as they can be for a cricket season to commence and we will continue to work towards that objective over the coming weeks and months. All of the measures that the club is adopting and implementing are fully endorsed and appreciated by the PCA.”

Chief executive Daniel Gidney has issued a statement to members, signalling his intention to keep hold of staff where possible.

“We’re carrying that large staff payroll – when the turnover drops off like that and the phone just stops ringing, that has a catastrophic short-term effect on any organisation,” Gidney said. “We have some difficult measures to make, we have some cost-cutting to do, but we’re doing everything we can to protect our biggest asset which is our staff.”

Chairman David Hodgkiss has died aged 71 after contracting the virus. A club statement said: “He was much loved by everyone at Lancashire Cricket Club and respected throughout the cricketing world. Our sincere condolences and thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

The club will offer 5000 tickets for a T20 Blast game to NHS staff as “a gesture of support for their ongoing heroic efforts”.

A sign on the gates at Sophia Gardens Getty Images

Leicestershire

The club had been due to hold its AGM on March 26 but, on legal advice, the meeting was opened and then adjourned until a later date. Staffing at Grace Road has also been reduced to “minimal levels”.

Leicestershire’s chairman, Mehmooda Duke, said: “We have an extremely hardworking group of staff and we have always built our own sense of cricket family, our own ways of working, and strong procedures over the years. Together, we have to keep the foundations of that family strong and work hard to support each other in every way we can.”

Northamptonshire

Alex Wakely’s benefit year has been pushed back to 2021. “We’d put a lot of work into it and most of my events were ready to go and we were in a really good place,” he told the Independent. “But ultimately regardless of anything, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it.”

Chairman Gavin Warren told the Northamptonshire Telegraph that the club is in “pretty good shape” in terms of its financial situation.

“Our story is long, but financially we have sorted ourselves out and fortunately we are in a good place,” he said. “So I think we are all sort of planning for the worst-case scenario for this year, but it is about the long term as well, not just the here and now.

“We have come through a tough journey, and we want to make sure we get through this next tough journey and be about for the next 100 years.”

Somerset

The club has decided to furlough “a significant proportion” of staff for April, with reviews to follow beyond that.

Chief executive Gordon Hollins said: “By taking advantage of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, we are able to preserve jobs at the Cooper Associates County Ground during such a difficult financial period for the club. It also ensures that we will be in a strong position to face the opportunities and challenges that will lie ahead once we have overcome this pandemic.”

Surrey

Veteran allrounder Rikki Clarke has signed up as an NHS volunteer. “Might not be much but anything that can make the difference to someone in need is good enough for me,” he tweeted.

Australian seamer Michael Neser’s overseas contract has been cancelled.

Sussex

The club has furloughed the majority of its non-playing staff. Chief executive Rob Andrew said: “The shut-down of cricket and with it nearly all the club’s commercial activities until the end of May at the earliest means that we were faced with no alternative but to furlough as many staff as possible during this period.”

Head coach Jason Gillespie has flown back to Australia, and is currently in self-isolation. “I get packages of supplies dropped off by my family,” he told the Sussex website. “I hear the doorbell ring and go to the door where I see the family standing 30 feet away.”

Warwickshire

Players have been ringing elderly members to make sure they are coping with self-isolation. “The main takeaway we both took from the conversation was that perspective at times like these is really important,” said batsman Adam Hose after one call. “You have to take a step back and be really thankful for the things you do have.”

Playing and non-playing staff have been furloughed, with the club guaranteeing 100 percent of players’ salaries. Edgbaston will become a coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff.

Worcestershire

Playing and non-playing staff furloughed with the club offering players a guaranteed 90 percent of their wages.

A club statement on April 6 said that provisional work had indicated the crisis could have a cost of over £1.1m, “which for a club that in 2019 made a statutory loss of £89.3k and has £4.3 million of debt is substantial”.

Chairman Fanos Hira told BBC Hereford and Worcester that the club’s “lean structure” will be helpful during the crisis.

“We’re the only county that doesn’t have a six-figure paid CEO,” he said. “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.”

Yorkshire

Playing and coaching staff have been placed on furlough leave following a board meeting on Friday, April 3. The previous week, the club had confirmed the decision to furlough “a large proportion of staff”.

Director of cricket Martyn Moxon said: “We are in the midst of a national crisis and cricket is secondary at this moment. From a club point of view, we feel that these measures need to be taken to ensure as little damage as possible to the business.

“The players are disappointed not to be playing as they have worked hard during the winter and have been excited about the season ahead. However, they are all fully understanding of the club’s decision and we hope that the situation improves as quickly as possible to ensure that everyone can resume some kind of normality as soon as possible.”

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