Lan­cashire have agreed what is be­lieved to be the largest com­mer­cial deal in the his­tory of county cricket by sell­ing the nam­ing rights to its Old Traf­ford home. The 10year deal, thought to be worth up to £10m, will see the ground re­named Emi­rates Old Traf­ford and the Emi­rates brand ap­pear on the front of the team's Friends Life t20 play­ing kits. Lan­cashire have en­dured great fi­nan­cial strain in re­cent years. A lengthy plan­ning bat­tle over the £32m re­de­vel­op­ment of the ground saw the club de­clare losses of £2m in 2010 and al­most £4m in 2011. Fur­ther losses are also an­tic­i­pated when the 2012 fig­ures are de­clared in the next few weeks. Now, how­ever, the club can start to look to the fu­ture with greater con­fi­dence. The ground re­de­vel­op­ment is ex­pected to be com­pleted in May, the square, hav­ing been turned to avoid prob­lems with the sun shin­ing in bats­men's eyes, is op­er­a­tional once again and com­mer­cial deals with Emi­rates and Tesco, who have cov­ered around two-thirds of the cost of the devel­op­ment, would ap­pear to have put the club back on an even keel. Tick­ets for the Ashes Test in Au­gust have also sold well - the first four days have sold out - lead­ing the club to pre­dict a re­turn to profit in 2013.

Of reg­u­lar in­ter­na­tion­al­host­ing coun­ties, Sur­rey, Hamp­shire, Durham, Glam­or­gan and York­shire have all pre­vi­ously sold nam­ing rights to their grounds. War­wick­shire are also hope­ful of sell­ing nam­ing rights to their Edg­bas­ton home in the coming months. Sur­rey's five-year deal with Kia - thought to be worth around £3.5m - is be­lieved to have been the largest com­mer­cial county deal un­til now. Emi­rates also won the nam­ing rights to Durham's ground, mean­ing the third and fourth Tests of this sum­mer's Ashes se­ries will be

the played at grounds bear­ing the com­pany's name.

"This an­nounce­ment rep­re­sents an­other ma­jor step in the re­de­vel­op­ment of Old Traf­ford," Michael Cairns, chair­man of Lan­cashire CCC, said. "The fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits of this deal are a core com­po­nent of our long-term strat­egy for com­mer­cial sus­tain­abil­ity.

The part­ner­ship will sup­port our in­ten­tion to be re­garded as one of the top County Cricket Clubs in the coun­try and undis­puted as a Cat­e­gory A Test Match venue. We re­main com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing the very best fa­cil­i­ties for our mem­bers, play­ers and spec­ta­tors."

Cairns, who made the ini­tial con­tact with Emi­rates, was keen to stress the progress the club has made over re­cent years. From a sit­u­a­tion where their crum­bling ground was over­looked for a 2009 Ashes Test, they are emerg­ing as one of the clubs best equipped to cope with the new com­pet­i­tive re­al­ties fac­ing all in­ter­na­tional-host­ing venues.

"I can't get to grips at times with what we have achieved," Cairns told the Manch­ester Evening News. "I came on board 11 years ago when the busi­ness was strug­gling a lit­tle.

"Then, we sat down and drew up a list of ev­ery­thing we wanted to achieve. And, be­lieve it or not, we have now done 90 per cent of that list, which is amaz­ing.

"We have been coura­geous with some of our de­ci­sions. We went £10m into debt to build The Point, but we knew it would drive the fu­ture of the busi­ness.

"We turned the square, which was al­ways go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult pro­ce­dure. But in the end we knew we just had to do it. In this fi­nan­cial cli­mate we have been able to raise close to £30m in cash for the re­de­vel­op­ment, se­cured £10m to build The Point and now we have signed a 10-year spon­sor­ship deal with a lead­ing global brand in Emi­rates. What we have done is fab­u­lous."

"Some as­pects of com­mer­cial­ism don't sit well with what mem­bers want," Lan­cashire's com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Ge­off Durbin told the Manch­ester Evening News. "But equally if you don't have a com­mer­cial ap­proach then you don't have a club. It is a ques­tion of bal­ance.

"Keep­ing Old Traf­ford in the name was cru­cial to ev­ery­one at the club. In the process of re­search­ing the mar­ket­place there were some or­gan­i­sa­tions who would have in­sisted on the words Old Traf­ford go­ing as part of any agree­ment, and that was a deal breaker for us. "Our mem­bers know a lot about our club and, com­mer­cially, we want to make sure they have a club which is sus­tain­able and which is go­ing to be here for a long, long time to come.

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