CHIEF executive Matt Rawnsley has defended the call to charge Worcestershire members for this summer’s match with Australia.

Some fans vented anger on social media over the prospect of having to purchase tickets that had been included in their annual subscriptions in the past.

Rawnsley explained the decision had been taken to enable more cricket at New Road while balancing the books.

“We did charge members in 2009 but not in 2013, the last two times we welcomed Australia,” said the county chief.

“Our goal is to run a very balanced budget and as a club we want to invest as much as we can back into facilities and the experience for members and supporters that come here.

“The realities are that if we don’t charge, it is valuable revenue that cannot be put back into the club.

“It costs a lot of money to put on cricket, dependent on the format between £15,000 and £35,000 per day.

“We have made some conscious choices this year to increase the number of days of cricket from 45 to 62 and 20 of those are absolutely free for members.

“Lots of those days are around women’s cricket, physical disability tournaments, second XI and academy cricket and pathways.

“There is a lot to see here this year with a women’s one-day international and England under-19 games and the compensation we get from the ECB (for those fixtures) comes nowhere near covering the costs.

“We want to do all of these things but in the end, the books have to balance and that’s why we made the decision.”

Worcestershire announced reduced profits for the financial year ending December 2018 with subscriptions and commercial revenue down but receipts from ticket sales and catering up.

“There is more to do,” said Rawnsley when asked about growing the club’s revenue streams.

“You are always living 12 months in legacy when it comes to memberships and gate receipts and our 2017 performance in white-ball cricket was really poor.

“We expected 2018 to be a challenge as far as membership numbers were concerned, although the trends are positive for this year.

“It is not done and dusted and we will know by the end of March what that looks like.

“Societally, there are some challenges around membership. People are less likely to buy an annual pass, whether that be for a cricket club, gym, or anything else they want to do.

“We saw that reflected in membership numbers going down but ticket sales going up. People want that flexibility to go when they want to without necessarily signing up for a whole year.

“These are things we have to manage, we are not alone in that with similar trends across the country.

“Last year saw T20 ticket sales go up 10 per cent, much higher than the national average. Success brings success in that sense, if we do well on the field we would hope 2019 ticket sales would be good based on 2018.

“The positive trends around catering, events, hospitality and conferencing are very good.

“We want to be more profitable, obviously, but we have gone through lots of change and achieved a great deal.

“We want to carry on investing in facilities and have budgeted to do that. If we do what we say we are going to this year it will see £500,000 put into that side of the business over a two-year period on the back of spending £25,000 in 2017.

“That’s a huge difference and the finances of the game look really positive with the new 100-ball coming. We need to use that money as an enabler and we will be very shrewd in how it is invested.”