Last evening’s statement from Somerset’s Chief Executive Gordon Hollins was long overdue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has brought a mixed response. The following thoughts are not, I hasten to add, those of an apologist for the club but my personal views as a lifelong Somerset supporter.
I’ve always taken the view that I pay my membership as a contribution to my club. I don’t do it as an economic calculation as my work and location mean that I can’t get to Taunton anywhere near as much as I’d like to during the season. I reason that the pleasure Somerset cricket gives me has a value far more than what I pay to be a member of the club.
I also reason that my (small) contribution helps the finances of the club, which, as we have seen over the last few years, has brought success on the pitch. The simple equation for me is that the more successful the club is the greater my pride in and enjoyment of the club and by extension the better value for money.
The problem I have is that as members we have no financial visibility of the club’s current position. The events of last August with the departure of the previous Chief Executive and the rumours that swirled at the time have never been fully explained. As a Chartered Accountant I find it hard to arrive at an opinion on the current health, or otherwise of the club.
The impact of COVID-19 on every business I work with has been significant so it would be foolish to assume that it has been otherwise for Somerset. But without knowing how robust or otherwise the club’s finances were in March forming a valid opinion is impossible.
I appreciate the principles of commercial confidentiality, but it would have been welcome if yesterday’s announcement could have been accompanied by an update on where the club is financially. It would be a mistake though to imagine that any county cricket club is in a strong position at present. Make no mistake it is quite possible that up to a third of the current first-class counties are in real jeopardy of financial failure and that, surely, is s place no Somerset supporter wants to see us in.
In business at present I am working with a number of my clients who have come through the last four months to look at how they can gain a competitive advantage over their competitors who are in a worse financial position as a result of COVID. Somerset cricket should be doing the same.
This is, however, an issue which goes far beyond number crunching. I had made the decision a couple of months ago that, if I were asked, I would agree to the club keeping my membership for 2020 and be happy to pay for 2021 as soon as membership is released. That is an emotional decision and I make no apology for it.
There is no perfect solution to this issue. Whatever the club does there will be a dissatisfied element of the fan base. We all need to respect others circumstances and opinions but that should not cloud our views.
The “heroes” tag is I think a clumsy one. I’m no hero, just a loyal, lifelong supporter of my club. The real heroes of the last four months have been the carers, NHS staff and the emergency services. Despite the negative comments that have surfaced on social media over the previous 12 hours I firmly believe the majority of Somerset County Cricket Club members will be happy in the knowledge that their 2020 membership has helped their club. To pick at the various “sweeteners” offered in last evening’s email completely misses the point.