MANCHESTER, England: Lancashire County Cricket Club are aiming to win the hearts of Indian fans as they look to build on a record-breaking financial year despite the impending impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lancashire reported the best-ever Ebitda - 7.6 million pounds - for a first-class county in its annual financial report for the year ending 31 December 2019.
The club also announced turnover of 34.0 million pounds and net profit of 5.0 million pounds - both new highs for the organisation.
The figures came despite the Red Rose county spending the past season in the second division and the numbers are linked to their strategy of utilising their Emirates Old Trafford venue for other sources of revenue.
With a hotel and conference facilities on-site, operating profits have grown tenfold for the club in the past five years.
But with no cricket to be played until July at the earliest, Lancashire, like other counties, will expect a financial hit from the impact of the virus.
"Clearly, these are now tough times as the club navigates its way through the current COVID-19 pandemic, but these results at least help relief that financial burden," CEO Daniel Gidney told Reuters.
"We are fortunate because of the risks and decisions we took which gave us a sustainable business and will enable us to continue with our ambitions going forward," he added.
Gidney said the club was continuing with plans for further development of Old Trafford and was also targeting the state school system in a bid to reintroduce the game to youngsters.
"We want to get cricket into a thousand state schools over the next 10 years, across the whole of the North West, that is something that is really important and very close to our hearts," he said.
But the most intriguing project for the club is to grow their brand in the world's biggest cricket market.
"We have a big growth plan for India," said Gidney, who noted the success of the India v Pakistan World Cup game at the venue last summer.
"We want to make Lancashire Cricket the second favourite team for all Indian fans. It is about raising our profile in India and obviously broadcast is a way to do that and we want to launch Lancashire TV and get as much Lancashire cricket content as we can broadcast in the sub-continent. That is very much part of our growth strategy," he said.
Signing Indian players would be an obvious route to popularity and although the IPL Twenty20 league has restricted Indian players from playing in T20 competitions abroad, players can still play in first-class cricket in England.
Lancashire held a training tour in Mumbai in February during which Gidney met with Indian business executives along with former India and Lancashire player Farokh Engineer.
The tour followed a number of initiatives aimed at welcoming Indian fans to future internationals in Manchester.
British fans of Indian heritage are also a part of Gidney's strategy along with fans of the India team, who travelled in huge numbers for last year's Pakistan match.
"To start with it is about encouraging people to travel more to watch India play in England, touch wood India are playing at Emirates Old Trafford in both 2021 and 2022. That is a platform.
"The passion for the game in India is enormous and unrivalled."
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)