Somerset County Cricket Club: Chief Executive's View

“Although our business plan is comprehensive and multifaceted, our objectives are simplistic.

“We are ambitious and incredibly resolute in our quest to win trophies, and provide entertaining cricket in excellent facilities for our loyal Members and supporters.

“My role as Chief Executive commenced in July 2017. At this point, we were in the County Championship relegation zone, and a monumental 30 points adrift of Surrey and Middlesex. Additionally, we were hovering near the bottom of the league table in the T20 competition and, concerningly but understandingly, morale was at a low point, and discontent was apparent.

“My response, in conjunction with the board, was to undertake a cricket review, and immediately. Following this comprehensive evaluation and, importantly, a lot of listening to the players and coaching staff views, a cricket restructure was instigated. The employment of this review, and just listening to their concerns, helped invigorate the players, and from this point on the season was radically transformed and SCCC were one of the form teams for the latter part of the season.

“When I started in July my predecessor, Guy Lavender, who incidentally accomplished a significant amount during his time with SCCC and is an outstanding CEO, explained an incredibly challenging headwind and, accordingly, a difficult and unpopular decision I’d need to make. To ensure the future financial stability of the Club, I’d need to reduce the cricket budget by approximately £250,000, or find alternative revenue streams. This quickly focused the mind, and the honeymoon period was cancelled. Our objective is to win trophies, and consequently finding alternative revenue for the Club was the decision taken.

“Our AGM announced another year of healthy profits, but if you remove the income from the IT20 and the ICC Woman’s World Cup, then the results are much less impressive. Factually, costs are escalating in cricket and in 2018 we won’t benefit from such profitable events at the ground. Having taken the decision, in conjunction with the board, not to reduce the cricket budget by £250,000 (no overseas players for 2018, and releasing existing players is the reality to this), an alternative solution was needed. The result is a modification to our Membership, and the following paragraphs will explain further the changes, and perhaps, alleviate one or two misinterpretations.

“We’ve been fortunate to sell out the last twenty-three T20’s, but on each occasion the ground has only been three quarters full, which is disappointing. This is due to a substantial number of our Members not being interested in watching T20. Specifically, 17% of our Platinum Members didn’t watch a single T20 Blast game in 2017, and 23% watched just one or two T20 Blast games. In total, this is 40% who are not regular visitors to the ground for T20’s. Conversely, only 164 Platinum Members watched all T20 Blast fixtures, which is just 4% and, unsurprisingly, of the 164 very few watched a great deal of Specsavers County Championship cricket.

“In response to the above, and recognising the need to increase revenue (and not reduce the cricket budget more importantly) for the reasons already stated, it seems logical that we attempt to address the issue of 1,500 empty seats at our T20’s despite ‘selling out’. Historically, we’ve not been able to sell more tickets as we need to leave available capacity for Members, who may or may not come.

“The solution is to separate the Membership into Specsavers County Championship/Royal London One-Day Cup and T20, and Members can purchase the Membership which best reflects their cricket watching behaviours. For the majority, purchasing one or the other is the sensible solution, and this will result in a reduction in cost for them. For instance, the 40% of Members who watched less than two T20’s last year should purchase a Membership for the Specsavers County Championship/Royal London One-Day Cup and pay as they go for the T20 Blast. Equally, those who predominately just watch the T20 Blast should purchase only the T20 Membership, and pay as they go for other formats.

“If Members do purchase according to their cricket watching behaviours, then the majority will see a reduction in their Membership costs. Transparently, though, for those who watch the majority of T20’s, and a noteworthy amount of Specsavers County Championship/Royal London One-Day Cup games, the price has increased. It had to. Although this is disappointing to many, it’s necessary. £269 (additional £27 or £55 for premium seating options for T20) to watch all formats of cricket at SCCC is exceptional value.

“We can now accurately predict how many will attend the T20 Blast fixtures, and sell the available capacity accordingly. This, alone, will address the £250,000 headwind described earlier, and, importantly, protect our investment in cricket. Although these changes are not popular, I hope the Members can see, at least, the rationale and accept this is a better solution than decreasing our investment into cricket.

“Separately, we’ve received some condemnation for not consulting with the Members on these changes. I sympathise with this, but the Club Rules are very clear. The Membership elect representatives to sit on the General Committee, and the management of the Club’s affairs, including changes to Membership, are vested in the Committee who decisions on all matters relating thereto shall be final and binding on every Member. A copy of the Rules is available from the Club.

“Whilst writing I want to address the perceived, by some, conflict of interest between me being CEO of Somerset, and Somerset having a commercial relationship with my business, Cooper Associates. The ground naming rights were purchased by Cooper Associates nearly three years ago, and long before I became CEO, and in return Cooper Associates pays a six figure sum each year to Somerset. This helps the Club financially but, importantly, any discussions concerning this are not undertaken, contractually, by me.

“In summary, therefore, all decisions taken are, genuinely, for good reasons and we are committed to delivering a winning team in excellent facilities. Personally, I’m a Somerset supporter first, and an employee second and from my perspective we’re in this together. May I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to seeing you in the summer.”

Lee Cooper

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