Sussex have been told to up their game off the pitch after losing £65,000 last season – despite a lucrative visit from the Australians.
But chairman Jim May is confident improved marketing and a revamped fixture list can help them towards their target of a £100,000 profit next term.
The three-day match against the touring Aussies brought in a net profit of £235,000 and T20 crowds were up 37%, helped by good weather rather than on-pitch performances.
But Sussex, who made an operating profit of £70,000 in 2012, were unable to increase membership and saw increased costs of staging matches, plus reduced profit margins from catering, hit the bottom line.
May has told members he was “extremely disappointed” with the financial performance and believes Sussex are not getting value for money from their improved facilities, which cost about £10million, and the level of cricketing entertainment on show.
“But we have very specific tasks to increase membership numbers and improve our income from catering and events away from cricket.
“We play professional cricket here roughly 40 days a year.
“The challenge is to use our facilities all year round.
“We have a very good product. Our catering is of a high standard but we have got to improve marketing.”
Counties have received a £1million loan from the ECB, which is likely to be converted into a grant, to improve marketing, public relations and online bookings.
Sussex will restructure their commercial department and also hope the addition of two home dates in T20, plus more Friday night games in the shortest format, will boost revenue.
The county stress they still have reserves of £1million in the bank but are keen to leave those funds untouched. They plan further development of their ground in the next five years, notably in the area around the Cricketers pub.
But they need their off-field operation to be slick enough to make the most of that investment.
Treasurer Simon Crundwell told members: “Our results are disappointing for a club that has no long term debt, receives in excess of 30% of its income from the ECB and, unlike many of its peers, enjoyed the upside from hosting the Australian tourists.”
Sussex banked about £20,000 from the Cliff Richard concert staged at their home ground.
May stressed the playing side would not suffer in a bid to wipe out losses.
He said: “There was a marginal increase in cricketing budget. We’ve looked hard at our cricketing budget and will make economies but not in terms of salaries and we’ve still got our pre-season trip.
“We get significant grants from the ECB which come from Test cricket and one-day internationals.
“As a sport, this is how we breed test players who generate that cash – between £1.5million and £2million.
“Our goal is always to make £100,000 per year so we can put a little bit away.
“Like all sports club we have to strike that balance between spending on the team and developing off the pitch. We have a T20 against Sri Lanka this season but it is going to be a very challenging year. It’s tough for all sports at the moment.”