06 May

 Cricket lovers keen to bypass the famous 26-year waiting list may soon be able to pay up to £80,000 to join Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) as a life member.

There are 18,000 full members at present and 5,000 associate members of the exclusive club, who pay up to £600 a year to enjoy unfettered access to Lord’s and its facilities having, in most cases, waited decades for the privilege. But under the new proposal disclosed in an email yesterday from the Chief Executive and Secretary, members and those on the waiting list will be able to buy a life membership on a sliding scale from £7,000 to £80,000 based on their age.

If the MCC does not meet its proposed quota for new life memberships through existing members or those on the list, the offer will be opened up to members of the public. Members of the public not on the waiting list will be charged an additional premium, the amount of which has not yet been agreed.

The scheme, which needs to be agreed by members at the annual general meeting, which was due to take place today, but has been rescheduled on 24 June, is aimed at funding the £50 million development work that is under way, which includes rebuilding the Compton and Edrich stands at the Nursery End of the ground to increase capacity in the ground by 2,500 seats to 31,000.

Lord’s will be hit with a significant financial blow running into tens of millions this year due to Covid-19. The home of cricket was due to host two Test matches and a number of other major domestic matches including the final of the inaugural edition of the Hundred, the new domestic 100-ball tournament.

It seems likely now that any international cricket that does take place this year will be at two or three “bio-secure” grounds including Southampton, Old Trafford and possibly Headingley. It is possible there will be no matches at all in 2020 at either Lord’s or the Oval.

The MCC is currently debt free and the development work was being financed by existing cash reserves and expected revenue from the next few summers. The life membership scheme is aimed at raising millions of pounds so the club remains free of debt and the work is finished in time for next summer.

TheDraft understands that after discussions with their developers ISG, the global construction specialists, the option to delay the work on the two stands for a year would be prohibitively expensive and would be an option of last resort.

One funding option could be debt-finance i.e. bank lending, facilitated long-term borrowing and bonds. A second option is equity-funding delivered through a life membership scheme similar to 1926 and 1996 schemes to redevelop the Grand Stand.

The existing 23,000 full and associate members were informed in the same email that because of the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, their annual membership fees for 2020 will not be refunded even if there is no cricket.

The MCC will host their AGM digitally in June where they will propose that Kumar Sangakkara, the current President, should have his term extended by a year.

John Stephenson


* The email will not be published on the website.