THE Zimbabwe tour to Ireland in July will go ahead in its entirety but only after Cricket Ireland chairman Ross McCollum had to go cap in hand to the ICC, the world’s governing body, asking for extra $500,000 on top of its bi-annual contributions.

Rumours that the tour, which involves three one-day internationals and three T20 internationals to be played in Stormont and Bready from July 1-14, was in doubt have been rife for weeks but it has just been revealed that it was Cricket Ireland who could not afford to stage them, following losses from last month’s one-off one-day international against England and the Tri-Series with West Indies and Bangladesh.

Ticket sales were disappointing but that was compounded by Cricket Ireland being victims of an organised internet scam, which affected around half-a-dozen companies in Dublin over the last four-five months, taking out hundreds of thousands of euros.

“This was a one-off payment from ICC not included in our fees, explained Cricket Ireland chairman Ross McCollum.

“We had a six-figure hole to replace because of the fraud and lack of (spectator) support at the internationals and the only way to do that was to look at the possibility of cancelling the Zimbabwe tour which is going to cost half a million with both men’s and women’s teams coming.

“So I approached ICC and they agreed to release some of their Full Member funding from a reputational point of view for both ourselves and themselves which wouldn’t have been great (if the tour had not gone ahead).
I
t is the second cash crisis to hit Cricket Ireland in the last six months after chief executive Warren Deutrom was forced to dip into his own pocket and loan the organisation €100,000, to help pay staff and creditors, but McCollum was keen to stress the two circumstances were quite different.

“Warren’s loan was a cash flow situation, and was always going to be repaid once ICC’s money arrived within two-three weeks. This one, as regards the fraud, it was out of our control and, indeed, the cyber security firm we got in to look at it said it as one of the most elaborate they had dealt with it, so we were never going to pick it up.

“It’s quite simple if you do not have enough money in the account you have to act and if we hadn’t got assistance from ICC the Zimbabwe tour would have been called off.”

Temporary stands were erected at Malahide for the glamour ODI against England to accommodate 8,500 spectators but less than half turned up. The seven-match Tri-series, which also involved three games between West Indies and Bangladesh, including the final, was also poorly attended.

The only other home fixtures for Ireland’s men side this year are the ODIs against Zimbabwe at Bready on July 1 and Stormont on July 4 and 7, with a T20 series to follow, the first game in Belfast on July 10 and the remaining two back at Bready on July 12 and 14.

All three T20s matches are double headers with the Women’s series between the two teams.