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Cricket news - Sean Jarvis hopes to create new chapter in challenging times

Jarvis, who has been on the Leicestershire board for a year, officially takes over the chief executive role from Karen Rothery on June 24

Jarvis, who has been on the Leicestershire board for a year, officially takes over the chief executive role from Karen Rothery on June 24

If Sean Jarvis had to pick a time to take over as Leicestershire's chief executive, he probably wouldn't have picked the middle of a global pandemic with the club facing a financial hit of half a million pounds and, he says, the biggest challenge it has ever faced. If there are positives to be found in the current situation, at least things can only get easier from here. Hopefully.

Jarvis, who has been on the Leicestershire board for a year, officially takes over the chief executive role from Karen Rothery on June 24, following 25 years working in football. Even without the current crisis, Jarvis' job would have been a tough one. The county had a poor season on the field last term, finishing bottom of the Championship and of both North groups in the white-ball competitions. Rothery described it as "another challenging year" when announcing an operating loss of GBP 132,000 for 2018/19.

The club expected to return to profitability this year, and secured a loan of GBP 1.75m from the local council in December, but as with every other sports club across the country, their forecasts have had to be ripped up and reworked thanks to Covid-19. "The impact that we're seeing is to the tune of about half a million pounds in terms of the loss that we're faced with," Jarvis tells Cricbuzz. That is the equivalent to a third of the revenue the club reported during the previous financial year.

As with all counties except Lancashire and Surrey, Leicestershire have furloughed their players and coaches as well as the majority of the non-playing side of the club. A "mitigation strategy" has been put in place to reduce as many of the county's cost items as possible and work with sponsors to see what can be salvaged in terms of revenue. Jarvis says the aim for now is "to try and protect the business as much as we can."

The question that nobody wants to consider, and nobody yet has the answer to, is whether all 18 first-class counties will survive this crisis. Jarvis is realistic enough to know that nothing is certain but at the same time, he sounds bullish about Leicestershire's future. "There is no hiding from the fact that this is going to be incredibly difficult coming out of this situation but I would say that we have a number of things in our armoury.

"We have tremendous heritage, we have tremendous support from our stakeholders. We have got amazing people. It's fairly obvious that Leicestershire has struggled both off and on the field so what we're doing is using this period to reflect on where we went wrong and how we can improve it and, if you like, recapture our identity, our vision, our culture.

"It is critical that we use this period wisely and that we stay as fit as we can so that when we come out of COVID we are ready to go. There is no doubt that when we come out we need to be in our community, we need to be playing some great cricket, we've got to do everything we can to give ourselves a fighting chance. Look at our past and the last thing we want to do is let that disappear. In fact we want to create a new chapter for the cricket club."

Jarvis joins Leicestershire from Huddersfield Town FC where he has spent the past 14 years as commercial director, as well as sitting on the board, during a period when the club reached the Premier League. Before that, he had a spell as owner of Oldham Athletic. Given his experience in football, he aims to bring a fresh perspective to Leicestershire. "I kind of know what good looks like in terms of a commercial operation," he says.

"To a degree every cloud has its silver lining and what we've done is looked at it and it's an opportunity, not necessarily to press the reset button, but look at different parts of the business and how we can improve them and make them work better for when we come out of the COVID lockdown."

There are a lot of things Jarvis wants to get done. Some of his priorities are to develop closer relationships with current sponsors, something he did to good effect at Huddersfield Town, look for new revenue streams outside of cricket - Grace Road was due to host a number of concerts this summer which will be introduced next year instead - forge closer links with the county's club cricket scene and, potentially, more outground cricket.

It is a busy to-do list and when things do return to some normality, there will be no time to waste in moving forward with these plans. "We need to make sure that when we do come out, we develop quickly and get a sustainable business going as fast as we can," Jarvis says. "Events such as conferences and weddings, for example, are all absolutely critical so the sooner we get back to normal, the better."

Over the last two weeks, the possibility that there will be some domestic cricket this season has increased. Given the likelihood that any matches will be behind closed doors, there will be an expense to putting the games on and little income coming in. As a result, Leicestershire are looking at possible revenue opportunities through live streaming their matches or supporters sponsoring cardboard cut outs in the crowd as German football teams have done.

"There's potentially little revenue streams that mitigate the losses that you're faced with but naturally we want cricket back to normal as soon as possible. Cricket is our principal business and I've got coaches and players and staff who are all just chomping at the bit to get up and running," Jarvis says. "We just hope that sport gets back to normal. If the weather continues the way it has been through to September I'm sure we'll have a fantastic latter part of the cricket season."

The club held their AGM last week - virtually of course - and about 120 members dialled in. "We talked to them about our current situation, what we are faced with, and we talked to them about how we drive forward," Jarvis says. "I have to say they were very supportive of what we're trying to do. I'm actually heartened by the response of the members and supporters. They've been phenomenal in doing what they can to support.

"This is arguably the biggest challenge that Leicestershire and probably the other counties have ever faced in the history of their clubs. When we come out of it, not only are we going to have our strategy in place, but we are going to need the support of the members and the businesses of Leicestershire to help us through this. We've got to make sure every pound we spend and generate is spent wisely."

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