16 May

Lord’s Members have launched a rebellion against proposals to allow wealthy supporters to jump the 28-year waiting list if they pay up to £80,000 for life membership.

They are outraged at the turn of events, accusing the club of putting short-term financial gain ahead of Lord’s traditions. Some are demanding a review, describing the scheme as “just not cricket”.

Gerald Corbett, the MCC chairman and a City grandee, has outlined proposals to create 350 lifetime memberships in addition to those admitted from the 12,000-long waiting list. In a letter to the existing 18,000 members, he wrote: “The committee has already debated at length the principle of people paying to obtain preferment, which is uncomfortable.

“But it is a reality that you can only raise money from those who have it and on balance it is this approach which it is hoped members will support . . . These are unprecedented times and difficult for many members. But we remain confident we will together sail through these choppy waters, finish the stands and maintain the strong financial position of the Home of Cricket.”

The new deal would be offered first to existing members and those on the waiting list. Mr Corbett did not specify the costs of life membership, but the speculation is it would be £17,000 for existing members younger than 30, £7,000 for those older than 65 and £80,000 for those wanting to skip the waiting list.

At present there is a £1,000 joining fee plus an annual subscription for members living in London of £582 and £485 for those out of town. The only way to jump the queue is to become a playing member or be awarded an honorary life membership reserved for distinguished former players, those who have made a notable contribution to the sport and royalty including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Edinburgh.

John Fingleton, a club stalwart for 52 years, said: “I do not believe in lifetime membership in principle. It would be unfair to those people on the waiting list to see others obtain membership simply because they have the money.”

Opposition to the proposal is led by Chris Waterman, who stood unsuccessfully for the main committee this year, and Philip Banham, a retired banker. Mr Waterman described the proposed sale of life memberships as “a shameful and shameless way to raise cash. It is a short-term fix for a long-term problem”. The club is in the middle of its largest construction project — the £52 million rebuild of the Compton and Edrich stands. There are fears that it will lose up to £10 million this year because of Covid-19.

The opponents have called for a special general meeting “to improve the poor decision-making that has hampered the development of MCC”. They feel that insufficient information has been provided about the club’s finances.

John Stephenson





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