Borough council defends £250,000 loan to Northants County Cricket Club

GV Guildhall - Town centre'060616JC11'news NNL-140618-165318001
GV Guildhall - Town centre'060616JC11'news NNL-140618-165318001

The borough council’s finance chief has stood by a decision to loan Northants County Cricket Club up to £250,000 despite latest figures showing the club made losses of £350,000.

Last month the Conservative-led authority announced it would loan the Wantage Road club the money to “help it get back to a financially sustainable position”.

However the most recently released accounts, which detail figures for 2014, show it made a loss of £305,636 on a total turnover of around £3.7 million.

A report as part of those accounts states: “The directors anticipated a challenging year with reduced ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) income, however the planned increase in sponsorship and hospitality income was not achieved and therefore failed to fill that gap.”

Back in August this year, the cricket club said things had “changed significantly” since poor financial figures in 2014.

A spokeswoman said at the time that new board members and new staff had been taken on and it had a “comprehensive commercial plan” to address the “historic losses”.

The plans involved utilising the County Ground for both cricket and non-cricket events. And the intention was to make a “capital investment” in the club to maximise the potential of its meeting and events space.

The recent figures reveal the extent of those losses in 2014 however.

The accounts also show the cricket club had outstanding loans totalling £490,440 by the close of the 2014 financial year.

However, in an interview with BBC Northampton, chairman Gavin Warren said that work has been undertaken in 2015 to get the club back on an even keel.

He even stated the club was in a “far superior financial situation than it has been in for 20 years”.

But the opposition leader at Northampton Borough councillor, Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) fears the council could be left in a similar situation as it has with Northampton Town Football Club recently.

She said: “We are faced with a crisis due to the loan given to the football club.

“We need to be extra cautious giving loans to other bodies.”

Mr Warren, who took over as chairman of the club in 2014, has claimed that since those last accounts were drawn up, new financing partners have been drafted in, which he referred to the BBC as “benefactors and other parties”.

Councillor Stone has expressed her concern that these financial partners have not been revealed yet.

However cabinet member for finance at Northampton Borough Council, Mike Hallam, has defended the authority’s decision to loan the cricket club up to £250,000, adding that it is secured.

He said: “A loan was made to Northants Cricket Club with the purpose to help secure the future of first class cricket in the town. Sports clubs are vital to the town’s economic growth and the people of Northampton asked for our help with this.

“The loan is up to £250k in total with the first tranche up to £100k and a further £150k dependent upon appropriate security being identified. This loan is well secured against an asset at 125 per cent of value of loan for £100k initial loan.”

Mr Warren has been contacted for an interview but was unavailable.