LONDON Durham have been stripped of their status as a test match venue and relegated to the second division of the English county championship after receiving a 3.8 million-pound bailout from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Durham's Chester-le-Street ground first hosted test cricket in 2003 and staged a five-day match between England and Sri Lanka this year. It will continue to be eligible as a venue for one-day internationals.
With debts reported at 7.5 million pounds the ECB money will allow Durham to meet their operational costs and pay staff wages as well as settle debts.
"We've been working with Durham County Cricket Club throughout the year on how best to address their financial issues; we welcome the club's willingness to review its business model and management structures," the ECB said in a statement on Monday.
"There is no doubt that a strong, financially robust Durham County Cricket Club has a vital role to play in developing England talent, enriching our domestic competitions and underpinning the wider growth of the game in the north east."
Durham, who were awarded first-class status in 1992 to become one of 18 teams in the championship, will start next season in the second division with a 48-point penalty and will be subject to a salary cap until 2017.
Hampshire, who finished bottom of the first division last season and were relegated, will now stay in the top tier of the county championship.
($1 = 0.7797 pounds)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)