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SBD Global/July 18, 2014/Finance

Lord's Relying On Food, Beverage Sales For Nearly Half Of MCC Revenue

In the run-up to Thursday's second Test match between England and India, the "kitchen and bar staff at Lord's Cricket Ground were looking a lot busier than the groundsmen," according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. It is "entirely in keeping with the home of cricket, a game built around breaks for lunch and tea, that the tradition-minded Marylebone Cricket Club, which runs Lord's, has been using the promise of a full stomach to open up the wallets of members and non-members to push through change." The MCC's 18,000 members have for years been engaged in a "fractious, at times vitriolic debate" over modernization. Rival camps "took sides over plans backed by a private developer to fund an ambitious" £400M ($684M) expansion through "building apartments on the outer areas of Lord’s." Those plans "were scuppered, to be replaced by the piecemeal redevelopment of outdated stands paid out of MCC’s own funds." So where will they "find the money?" Food "and drink, of course." MCC Assistant Secretary Jon Robinson said that catering and hospitality makes up "not far short of half of all our revenues." The club is "undergoing a concerted drive to have 'the best catering offer of any UK sports venue.'" The first redevelopment will see the Warner Stand next to the pavilion replaced by a £21M ($36M) "new facility that adds only 100 seats but incorporates a 'spectacular' 135-seat restaurant, plus bars." If it was "not for the cricket, Lord's would resemble a food emporium." British chef Jamie Oliver has converted part of the Nursery End of the ground into a "food village." The pavilion's "famous Long Room is turned into a banqueting suite for functions -- Alastair Cook, the England captain, was holding a benefit dinner there on Monday." Hospitality suites are "crammed into various stands and corners of the ground, including a new 'India Club' catered by Michelin-starred Tamarind of Mayfair." The MCC could "hasten development funding by banning spectators from bringing their own picnics and booze." A study once estimated that Lord's was losing up to £450,000 per Test "because of this tradition." But some traditions "are untouchable." Robinson: "We have absolutely no thought of abandoning that" (FT, 7/17).
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