Fraud forced cricket body into bailout
A series of financial blows has forced Cricket Ireland to ask the ICC for a $500,000 (¤448,000) advance on funding to allow it to complete its fixtures this summer. The second cash crisis in six months came after the governing body was hit by internet fraudsters and lower ticket sales than expected for the recent series of internationals.
Cricket Ireland had contemplated cancelling the tours by the Zimbabwe men's and women's sides but the ICC lifeline will allow the six ODIs and six T20s to go ahead in July in Oak Hill, Bready and Stormont.
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"Our chairman, Ross McCollum, secured a funding advance from ICC which allows the tour to go ahead in its entirety," says chief executive Warren Deutrom.
In April, the Sunday Independent revealed that Deutrom had loaned his employers €100,000 when it suffered a severe cash crisis in October 2018. The loan was repaid on December 7 last.
Cricket Ireland recently fell victim to an invoice redirect fraud which has seen more than €4.5m stolen from several businesses, clubs and individuals here since the start of the year, according to Gardaí.
Hackers broke into the organisation's email system, studied its communications with commercial partners, and used the knowledge to send one of them emails, purportedly from Cricket Ireland, giving them new, fraudulent bank details. When that firm - believed to be the Asian-based agent for broadcasting, sponsorship and perimeter advertising - went to pay monies owed the sum disappeared into an account controlled by the hackers.
The sporting body estimates its losses at "a six-figure sum". Detection and recovery have proved complex due to the cross-border nature of much of its business, and the multiple currencies involved. "It's a quagmire, and a nightmare," says Deutrom.
"A six-figure sum" is also the amount Cricket Ireland has said it is also down due to a shortfall in commercial broadcast revenue from 2018.
"This was due to unique circumstances, and while it is relatively unimportant when you look at the hundreds of millions being spent on sports rights, to a small organisation that has to build its own ground every time it has a game, has to put in the infrastructure for broadcasters, and is at the mercy of the elements, it is a very, very significant amount indeed," says Deutrom.
"Those factors put significant strain on the future of the Zimbabwe games, and the losses on the England game put even more pressure on the potential profit and loss at the end of the year."
Those losses - estimated at €250,000 - on the rain-hit, poorly-attended ODI at Malahide last month, and the two "six-figure sum" hits, show why Cricket Ireland requested the $500,000 advance from ICC.
The organisation has suffered growing pains since it was elevated to Test status and full membership of ICC in June 2017. The cost of staging its inaugural Test at Malahide last May has been estimated to have exceeded €600,000, including the expense of erecting temporary seating for 8,000 spectators.
The Malahide club ground has very little of the infrastructure needed for international cricket, so temporary grandstands have to be built, marquees erected and pre-fabricated changing rooms and media centre installed. Broadcasters, too, have to be accommodated in what is a village ground for the rest of the year.
The risk-taking involved is compounded by having to go to the UK to find insurance against events being ruined by rain.
"It's frustrating that we have to put on marquee fixtures on greenfield sites," says Deutrom.
The chief executive says the venues for all home games over the next two or three years will be allocated shortly, providing certainty for the clubs and regions who can then seek local funding for upgrading infrastructure.
"We also need a period of consolidation, so not having games against England, India and Australia means we won't have to take significant risk. That means utilising smaller venues where 1,500 or 3,000 seats can be installed."
The organisation will also wait till after the ICC Annual Conference in July to see what level of funding it will receive, which could impact on the level of activity for the rest of 2019.
Next year promises to be a busy one, with a series of white-ball games in West Indies in January, Tests in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the spring, and a home Test against Bangladesh next summer.
"As an organisation we need to develop reserves but since being elected to full membership we have suffered that series of short-term shocks. Thanks to ICC funding the fundamentals of our business are very strong," Deutrom added.
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