08 May

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have taken further measures to shore up grassroots cricket in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic by introducing an emergency loan scheme to help finance cash-strapped leagues during the lockdown.

In addition to their initial round of emergency support funding, which Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, last week said had been successfully taken up by 92 percent of applicants, the ECB are now offering loans of up to £50,000 to cover costs that would otherwise be unrecoverable.

Such costs, from £2000 upwards, might include the cost of block booking/hire of grounds; the cost associated with the production of league handbooks; the cost of purchase of kit and/or equipment and the cost of staging events.

The ECB has also taken the decision to cover the cost of cricket balls for this year's league season, which has been postponed until July 1 at the earliest but which may yet face outright cancellation as the UK continues to implement social distancing measures.

Nick Pryde, ECB's Director of Participation and Growth, said: "We're pleased to be able to offer a new League Emergency Loan Scheme to help affiliated cricket leagues during the current shutdown of the sport.

"It has been great to see clubs receiving financial support through national and local government schemes, as well as through the ECB's Emergency Support Funding, which launched last month. We are now in a position to help the leagues across England and Wales with the costs they will incur in 2020 regardless of the amount of cricket that is played this summer.

"Leagues will be able to apply for a loan of up to £50,000 to cover a number of unrecoverable costs incurred for the 2020 season, as well as assisting towards the cost of cricket balls purchased for the year.

"Everyone across the sport is hoping we will see cricket played across England and Wales this summer and at the ECB we're working closely with the Government to establish when and how it will be safe to resume play."

In addition to these measures, the ECB has also put in place a Return to Cricket grant scheme, which is designed for clubs with exceptional circumstances, such as defaulting loans. Plus, a further £20 million of funding has been made available by Sport England to clubs that might not otherwise qualify for direct ECB funding, of which there are thought to be some 4,000 examples.

Giving evidence to the DCMS select committee hearing on Tuesday, Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, estimated that the funding shortfall in club cricket was in the region of £32 million.

"There's a huge appeal to local members to help support clubs at a time where they would normally be generating revenues from junior cricket programmes and match-day income," he told the hearing.

"There's no [limit to the] amount that we can do to sustain the size of the hole that's likely to be out there," he added. "It's a very, very serious problem."

John Stephenson


* The email will not be published on the website.