Lord’s: Lockdown, Liabilities and Lifetime Memberships

Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), owner of Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, has provided an update on the costs of the stadium’s redevelopment plans and the impact COVID-19 has had on the project.

Westminster City Council granted full planning permission for the second phase of the Lord’s transformation plan back in January 2019. The second part of the long-term redevelopment plan first unveiled in 2013 involves the construction of two new three-tier stands to replace the existing Compton and Edrich Stands.

MCC and its building contractor ISG Construction broke ground on the two year-phased project in September. In November and December, the demolition of the old stands was completed and work on the new structures began in January and February, before concrete started to be laid in March and April.

In a webinar to members, MCC showed a video detailing the progress that has been made. Some 141,000 man hours of on-site construction work were clocked up in May, and £30m (€33.3m/$37.5m) of the £52.5m budget has been spent to date, mainly on design fees and construction. Between now and April 2021, roughly £2m will be spent per month and the works are set to be completed in May next year.

Three hundred new debenture seats will be included in the new stands, which will also feature 12 food and beverage outlets, two beer walls and two premium hospitality restaurants. The overall capacity of the ground will increase from 28,500 to 31,000.

Addressing members in the webinar, Robert Ebdon, assistant secretary of estates at MCC, explained how ISG has had to contend with “one of the wettest winters in the past decade” while carrying out the project.

Ebdon also revealed that MCC had to repair historic damage to a large Victorian Thames water sewer underneath the old Compton stand, which further impacted progress in December and January.

Ebdon said: “Westminster City Council have been fantastic and in an unprecedented move they granted our request to allow the builders to work every weekend for a four-month period in order to catch up on the programme. As we emerged from all of that, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown came in March.

“ISG put a COVID-19 plan into operation rapidly and have been able to continue to work safely with between 100 and 125 operatives on the site each day, whilst adhering to social distancing measures at all times.

“There have been supply chain issues to contend with and normal productivity levels were initially reduced to around 60 per cent but ISG have done a truly incredible job in recovering output to near normal levels now.”

Work on floodlight installation resumed on May 27 and is due to be finished by the end of June. The new Compton and Edrich scoreboard installation began in June and will be integrated into the existing scoreboard by the end of next month.

“We’ll therefore be ready for cricket to return to Lord’s if that is the case in August,” Ebdon said. “The plan is for building works to continue through whatever cricket does take place in August, September and October this year. ISG are on programme to deliver the new stands on time at the start of May 2021.”

Ebdon said that MCC has a “healthy contingency” remaining of around £900,000 and insisted the project is in “good shape”.

“To stop or to pause would plunge MCC into a myriad of contractual claims, warranty disputes, supply chain complexities and create issues with protection of the fabric of what has already been installed and built,” he added.

“Pausing the project will also deny MCC the incremental income budgeted for the new stands’ extra 2,600 seats, the new debentures, the 12 food and beverage facilities and our two new restaurants.”

MCC members have been asked to put aside £4-5m in case the project ends up being paused, which Ebdon said would cover demobilisation, loss of profit, loss of expense that the contractor would be seeking, legal fees, procurement complexities and any construction inflation that may occur over the period of the stoppage.

“In the interest of completing this vital development, which will be transformational for the club, I would ask you to support the proposals presented,” he said.

MCC chief executive Guy Lavender also revealed that the club faces a reduction of £30m in income this season, with “no prospect of any revenue-generating activities for the immediate future”.

Lavender said: “I think all members would agree that we need to finish this project and protect the club’s immediate financial future as the cost of pausing and delaying, as outlined, are in the region of £4-5m. Over the last four months there has been a lot of work done by respective committees in the executive across the club, engaged in financial modelling, assessing the impact of coronavirus both this year and next.”

Lavender also discussed a lifetime membership model, which has been presented in members’ AGM paperwork. The model has two component parts.

“The first is an offer to existing full members to move from paying an annual subscription each year, to making one payment for life,” Lavender explained. “This offer has been divided into age brackets and is reflective of different membership categories. We’ve set the pricing, we hope, to be attractive to you.

“The second component part, which is critical in meeting the club’s financial targets is the ability, when necessary, to offer a number of new memberships. The figure presented to you is set at a maximum of 350.”

The lifetime MCC membership will cost £80,000 for new members. Selling 350 life memberships would in theory generate £28m in total revenue, which MCC could use to finance projects instead of debt borrowing.

Lord’s currently has 12,000 people on its member waiting list and the lifetime membership offer would effectively allow fans to “jump the queue” if they are happy to pay the full rate. Lifetime memberships for existing members will also be available and will be cheaper for older fans.

Image: MCC