Growing Pains: T20, Overkill, And The New City Based Tournament

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In the post Big Bash, pre Indian Premier League vacuum all the talk is of how successful the former has proved, leading to much conjecture over the English domestic equivalent. Is the much discussed, much proposed city franchise league a means of growing the game or simply a means of growing bank balances? In the article below, Hector Cappelletti discusses the problem of T20 cricket in England, its future and its raison d’etre.

Thirteen summers previous I took the plunge and attended my first T20 match at the Rose Bowl. Back then it was known as Twenty20, before the IPL and the marketing men gave the format a re-brand. There was a sense of excitement, a sense of curiosity. Most of all, there was a sense of fun. Nobody was taking the format too seriously, it was a happy way to engage people into the sport, make it a little more sociable.

Hampshire’s new Rose Bowl ground was resplendent in the late afternoon sunshine as the hosts prepared to take on Middlesex. An atmosphere of bonhomie and light-hearted joy pervaded the circular seating area as supporters, having paid just ten pounds for a ticket, enjoyed their four cans of beer (or a bottle of wine) that were permitted without question upon entry whilst kids bounded up and down the bouncy castles and other fun fair rides.

The hinterlands were ringed with various eateries, confectionery stalls and beverage outlets, not an inch was spared! Available seats were scarce but, no matter, spectators simply stood at the top of the seating area to watch the match. The occasion seemed innocent, carefree. This was a brave new world and no-one was quite sure where it was heading. To be honest, no-one seemed too worried about looking too far ahead.

The hosts batted first and, despite possessing a batting line-up that included Shane Watson and Michael Clarke, dawdled through the first two thirds of their innings; only a late salvo from Dimitri Mascarenhas (52 runs from 22 balls including 4 sixes) helping the hosts reach a respectable total of 170. The England international, in combination with Chris Tremlett, then outfoxed Middlesex’s powerful line-up to win the match comfortably.

The result was, in some respects, secondary though to the occasion and the atmosphere. Supporters enjoyed themselves, discovered that cricket wasn’t quite as staid as they previously thought and pondered the idea of returning for another match, although such thoughts would need to be acted upon quickly due to the size of the crowds and the burgeoning popularity of the contests. (At one point myself and a friend moseyed up for a Sunday afternoon contest only to discover that it had sold out! An astonishing occurrence for domestic cricket outside of London)

Thirteen years on and the contrast is marked. Hampshire’s pleasant, modern Rose Bowl has morphed into a concrete monolith built for international cricket (or to be precise Ashes test matches) whilst the whole T20 (name changed by deed-poll) experience has ventured down the road of Oscar Wilde’s cynic: the price of everything and the value of nothing. Ticket prices have more than doubled, bringing alcohol into the ground was outlawed a few years back whilst the bouncy castle and fun fair have largely disappeared.

Somewhat gallingly, the Egregious Bowl has changed from a cricket ground into a multi-use stadium. The impact is that the venue now hosts any number of wedding fayres, tattoo festivals, vintage sales and fireworks displays, all of which are advertised with zeal and relish throughout the year. Sadly, cricket, the raison d’etre of the construction of the ground, seems to receive short shrift and little advertising, particularly those involving the host county. The necessity to sell the ground to the local authority, as a result of some financial dire straits, has likely dictated the shift in priorities.

The atmosphere seems to have changed as well. Gone is the carefree joie de vivre which emanated those early, formative years of Twenty20 cricket to be replaced with marketing bluff and bluster (it’s now the more dramatic, dynamic sounding T20 Blast as opposed to the humble Twenty20 Cup don’t ya know) whilst the spectator experience seems less turn up and enjoy yourself and more ‘give us your money’ in a highwayman sort of ethos. The number of food stalls decreased as the Ageas Bowl’s own outlets took command whilst prices have skyrocketed and the smells taken on that pungent stench so associated with the cheap fare on offer at Football grounds.

The contest itself remains interesting and, at times, absorbing, particularly if both teams possess a chance of victory. Twenty over cricket, played by whomever in whatever ground or stadium, still possesses the ability to entertain and enthral even if, like a trip to certain fast food outlets, it is quickly forgotten. Interestingly, the score of 170 which underpinned Hampshire’s success thirteen summers previous would still prove a competitive score. For all its shifts in tactics, marketing and faux drama the currency of quick runs remains paramount. Unfortunately the currency of quick pounds triumphs over all.

The problem with McCricket is that it doesn’t attract new interest in cricket as a sport, but, rather, new interest to a specific format from the event crowd. Said types seem interested in having a good time, normally with copious amounts of alcohol, with only a passing interest, at most, in the sport taking place in front of them. Learning and understanding the tactics and the nuances of the game, those aspects that make it so enjoyable to the cricket fan rather than the T20 fan, is not part and parcel of the experience.

Similar to the good time gang that now frequent the PDC darts tournaments, who drink plenty and then chant maniacally at either those in the tables or the chairs (delete as appropriate depending on where one is sat) the new T20 followers are unlikely to be concerned with the number of runs conceded in the power play, detecting how the off spinner has stalled the flow of runs with clever variations or noticing that the late-order biffer has been promoted to number three in pursuit of quick runs. Their prime pursuit is of a good time and seeing a few sixes smote over the boundary. Apparently Hampshire need to win in order to keep their feint hopes of qualification alive. Really? Which colour shirts are Hampshire?

Of course, as long as the punters stream through the gates such developments are largely deemed inconsequential. It is all about the money after all. If plenty choose not to watch, who cares? As long as they are in the ground and parting with plenty of cash. And isn’t T20 cricket financially safeguarding the cherished County Championship?

One significant problem with such a modus operandi is the inherent danger that the event crowd, possessing fairly short attention spans and just out for a good time, may well soon grow tired of T20 cricket and / or find a cheaper outlet for their pursuit of a good time. New supporters attracted to cricket as a sport are more likely to enjoy the sport as opposed to the fripperies and watch for years to come. Those not really interested in the sport but in enjoying themselves are likely to soon find another outlet at which to enjoy themselves. The danger is that T20 cricket becomes so last year.

Another potential danger surrounds the knowledge that cricket is a place where drinkers can enjoy themselves liberally. But the reins could potentially be tightened as those previously liberal policies are threatened by unsociable behaviour, the occasional pitch invasion and general mindless buffoonery. It’s all starting to sound a bit Football. Heck, I can even text a specific number if your behaviour is proving an irritation and potentially get you thrown out.

How long before the event types, in pursuit of a good time, realise that twenty plus quid for a ticket and seven quid for a pint just ain’t worth the hassle anymore? Or clubs have to start clamping down on persistent offenders. There are only so many new supporters T20 cricket can keep attracting through the gates, particularly if it needs to lure a new batch each summer.

Pleasingly, attendances for the T20 Blast in recent summers have proved encouraging and improving as the competition has become a staple of the summer. But the grass is always greener maxim has again reared its ugly head as the startling numbers of the Big Bash and the Indian Premier League have got the eyes of the mandarins in charge of English cricket rolling with pound signs akin to a cartoon character from one of Warner Brothers’ best creations. English cricket needs a parallel competition to keep up apparently. Not to keep up in terms of on the field ability, as England have proved rather handy at T20 cricket of late, but rather in the avarice department.

The latest hair brained scheme is to launch a second T20 competition in addition to the Blast. Not even the BCCI have attempted such a gamble – although they tried the Champions League which proved a catastrophic failure from a spectating point of view. City based franchises is apparently where it’s at, and the untapped market of those who have shown not an iota of interest in cricket in the past (not even in the rapidly beleaguered Twenty20 Cup / FPT20 / T20 Blast) is apparently going to fill the stadia in order to pay the handsome salaries on offer for the have bat will travel players.

One assumes that the present crowds who have generously supported the twenty over competition in England for the past decade and a half are just expected to turn up and fork out some more cash for the cause – whether it’s the Birmingham Badgers versus the Nottingham Numpties or the London Lotharios against the Kensington Klowns. Or simply not bother. Thanks for your support but we have a new toy now. In truth, a new competition may well achieve a considerable level of popularity. The overriding question surrounds whether the popularity will be as a result of isolated novelty or whether it can be sustained year on year.

Of course, those championing a city based, franchise league talk about the new competition helping to grow the game. Such an expression is surely little more than a half-truth, a euphemism. Just what is growing the game? Is it trying to get people interested to expand the sport at all levels or simply just a case of luring more pounds into the coffers?

Should a crowd of new people turn up to watch a match and actually enjoy the experience, is the preferred consequence that they go on and play the game and immerse themselves in the beauty of the sport or simply that they just turn up again and keep paying? The two are, of course, not mutually exclusive but, akin to the imbalance between bat and ball, there seems to be an inherent dichotomy presented by those claiming to want to ‘grow the game.’ One is reminded of Gideon Haigh’s question from a few years previous about whether cricket is making money to exist or existing to make money.

Those championing a city based, franchise league also pooh-pooh any criticisms made of the new competition, proclaiming any such criticisms as merely the comments of cricketing Luddites and of those who wish to keep cricket to themselves and a select few others. Reality dictates otherwise though. Those criticising the plans care deeply about the sport and don’t want to see a catastrophic mistake effect English cricket.

The Big Bash and the Indian Premier League have proven that city based, franchise leagues can be a success but there is no guarantee that such success would be replicated, particularly with a tournament played alongside the T20 Blast during the same summer. The threat is of T20 overkill. Those cities likely to be chosen for franchises are already playing host to seven T20 Blast fixtures each summer with potentially a further four matches from the new league. The much compared Big Bash only proffers four home matches per campaign to each team. Less is more after all.

Overkill is certainly a real danger regarding these proposals. One only has to remember the T20 Champions League to see how one can have too much of a supposedly good thing. India was besotted with T20 cricket but, despite four of the half dozen editions being played in the country, the public proved particularly ambivalent to the tournament and it was poorly attended, eventually leading to its mothballing after the 2014 edition.

Even the thorny, yet dull, issue of statistics and demographics rails against potential success. On top of the thousands of people that already attend the near saturated T20 Blast (lest anyone forget the competition that is already in place) the proposed new league is attempting to prove comparable to the Big Bash. The last edition of the BBL averaged just over 30,000 punters attending each match. Only one cricket ground in England can achieve holding that many spectators on a consistent basis.

Talk of the Olympic Stadium being coerced in to service has been bandied around but the reality is that English cricket stadiums cannot hold the capacities of their Australian equivalents whilst the demographics of Australian society lend themselves to greater attendances in cities as 62% of the Australian populous live in the five largest cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide) compared to just 33% in England. And that figure is beefed up by use of urban areas (Greater London, Manchester, Birmingham-Wolverhampton, Leeds-Bradford and Southampton-Portsmouth) as the issue of defined cities is a little more fluid in Britain. Admittedly, in terms of population the two figures are comparable (approximately 17 million in England compared to approximately 20 million in Australia) but a large concentration of the English 17 million are based in London. There isn’t enough to go round elsewhere.

Such a spread of the populous also requires people to travel significant distances to matches across these urban areas, not particularly appealing on a Friday evening in the rush hour traffic when attempting to reach the ground for a 6.30 or 7.00 start. Add in the restrictions of stadium capacity and having to attract spectators on top of those who already attend the T20 Blast and the statistics prove somewhat eyebrow raising.

Don’t even mention the uncontrollable factors such as the weather. Crucially, not one of the thirty-five matches that comprised the sixth edition of the Big Bash was washed out whilst only one lost time / overs due to inclement weather. Those statistics are little more than a pipe dream for English cricket. There could be nothing worse for potential new fans than turning up to a cold, windy ground on what should have been a summer’s evening.

The new competition will also be partly played at the same time of year currently occupied by the Caribbean Premier League. So the potential to attract top billing overseas stars could potentially be further limited (assuming the BCCI continues its policy of not allowing its players to play in other T20 leagues) by the absence of West Indian stars. Throw in a team touring England unlikely to release their players and England players similarly unavailable and the number of quality stars on show is likely to be dramatically reduced.

And what effect will the new competition have on the current status quo? Diluting the 50 over competition to a virtual second XI event and effectively downgrading the T20 Blast will surely corrode the county finances that are supposed to be bolstered by the new competition but are already dependent on the revenues from the existing competitions, in particular the T20 Blast.

In essence, these are the lessons that should be learned from the success of the Big Bash. Australian cricket has been sensible enough to re-invent its existing T20 domestic competition, not add another one into the calendar. Each contest matters and each contest is an event, both from a cricketing point of view and from a social equivalent. Try and shoehorn too many into a short space of time and the whole concept runs the risk of overkill and becoming irrelevant.

Keep the T20 Blast, fine. Implement a city-based franchise league, fine. But keeping both would very much be a case of two’s a crowd.

Hector Cappelletti

You can read more of Hector’s work at Yahoo Over Cow Corner

37 Comments

  1. Great Article. I was also at that match back in 2004 and like you, remember the Rose Bowl as it used to be. All sorts of food vans, pop up bars and a sense that as a long suffering Hampshire fan we were about to see a new future !

    That we have, sadly and it’s not one I now enjoy. In fact, I would rather travel to The Oval or Lords to watch a game of cricket rather than the Egregious Bowl with it’s Shane Warne “Bar” and a concrete bowl that has been so ECB’d it is barely recognisable anymore. I object to having to fork out a tenner for a pint of pish and cardboard burger and whilst I know it’s no better at Lords or The Oval, at least the travel connections are good and there is a curry house within walking distance.

    Sorry, a bit of a hobby horse of mine, but lots of good, relevant points made.

  2. Giles Falconer on

    I live a 20 minute walk, a 90+ minute train journey and then a tube journey (20 minutes?) plus a final 15 minute brisk walk to get to Lords – and the same to get home; much the same for the Oval. True the Olympic stadium might be a little easier (but not much, nor much cheaper). Will I go to a 20 over game at any of these venues? Unlikely, even if my own team was taking part in the game, absolutely not happening if it is some made up nonsense franchise. I’m as likely to watch a game in the Bangladesh League…

    So, to be honest, I want the county T20 to continue whilst these games are on, or there simply won’t be any cricket to watch for a significant part of the summer. I might, I suppose, watch county second XI games. Or I simply won’t get to see any cricket at all. And if the only games I can watch are when it is cold, early or late in the season, will I (or many others, I suppose) bother?

  3. Let’s not forget that largely because of the new city T20, there will be no county first class cricket played in August anymore. Yes that’s right folks: according to the current proposals there will be no championship cricket in the driest month of the English summer – or at least the month when spinners should be coming into their own on dryer pitches. As far as I’m concerned this is both absurd and criminal.

    You really have to wonder what the ECB’s priorities are. Personally I think they’ve jumped to the conclusion that first class cricket is dead because people are too busy / modern life is too fast to enjoy it these days. Personally I think this assumption (if my suspicions are right) is a fallacy. After all, long sports are still extremely popular. The Tour De France takes 20+ days and cycling is as popular as it’s ever been. The idea that the public are time poor / stupid and therefore cannot grasp more subtle and nuanced games is also extremely patronising.

    • “You really have to wonder what the ECB’s priorities are”.

      This is the big question. An updated version of the Gideon Haigh cricket/money question is: do they perceive T20 as the gateway to other forms of cricket, or other forms of cricket as the gateway to T20?

  4. To quote the late great Leonard Nimoy “Its Cricket Jim, but not as we know it”. Chewing gum for the eyes. I find it about as interesting as the contents of my navel.

  5. Anyone who has any doubts about the seriousness of what cricket as we know it is facing, might try this (specifically the conclusion):

    http://theanalyst.net/2017/02/04/a-six-point-plan-to-fix-english-cricket/

    T20 and the Ashes – that’s the future of cricket! Everything else just isn’t 21st century! Of course, it could be argued this is just one person’s view, but I don’t think he’d be arguing this if he wasn’t hearing certain views along these lines expressed behind the scenes.

    • Giles Falconer on

      The Ashes as a T20 competition? Because as sure as eggs are eggs, a diet of T20 and other short form games won’t prepare the players for a five day game…

  6. If only there was more cricket played away from “home” at club & school grounds – many easily good enough to host T20 matches – making it easier for many more spectators to attend. But money rules all, hence the ridiculously overpriced beer, food and car parking. Could the game really not manage on £10 for an adult ticket (£5 for juniors, £25 for a family ticket), £5 to park and £3 for a pint? Then watch the families flock in.

    • Giles Falconer on

      We get told that the Big Bash should be the model for our T20, but the tickets for that start at $20A for an adult ticket – about £12 now thanks to the decline of the £, but actually pretty cheap given other prices ‘down under’. Somehow I doubt prices will be so affordable here.

      • The success of the big bash has been due increasing the number of teams, slashing the ticket prices, and stick the games on domestic tv.

        The mandarins in charge talk about taking inspiration from the big bash, but don’t actually seem to be aware of how that tournament has been so successful. Instead they talk about slashing the number of teams, increasing the ticket prices, and keeping the games on expensive pay tv.

  7. I’ve watched a good few T20 matches on television, but never felt the remotest desire to attend one. As far as I can see T20 is a form of cancer, and the franchise just shows that it has metastasized. The idea that the championship will not be played on any day in August is deplorable, but the disease of which it is a symptom is the idea that Hector has put his finger on, namely that the ECB is in the business of business, not cricket. But it is not very good at it, hence the cancerous approach.

  8. The problem with T20 does not start with the latest plans but rather with the effect on colts and the use of T20 or similar formats in colts cricket. Anyone who plays for a club with a colts section has seen the insidious effect of T20 on the mindset of young players, especially batsmen. This ranges from an inability to play out a maiden without panicking, to the pathetic attempts at T20 shots such as ramps and reverse sweeps. This is where the big impact on cricket is taking place and why test and county championship cricket will suffer from a limited supply of young players with the necessary technique.

    What is to be done? Introducing a new T20 will be marginal as the colts all watch international T20, IPL and similar already. A much more significant change would be to ban limited over cricket at colts level, encouraging a willingness to dig in and accept a draw as a legitimate result. But I am, no doubt, a dinosaur. I still believe making helmets for colts was a retrograde step. I learnt before helmets and, playing against county colts learnt to play short bowling properly. Ever since helmets became general wear it has been difficult to get colts to develop technique to short balls.

    • The point of colts cricket is for the colts to have fun playing cricket and to learn sufficient cricket skills to be able to play and enjoy adult cricket.

      The cricket they will be playing as adults is limited overs cricket – probably either 20 or 40 over games. So surely that is the type of cricket you should be preparing them for, no?

      Most junior cricketers have been taught a forward defence and can keep out a straight ball, but don’t possess the power to hit the ball off the square – so you tend to see a LOT of maidens at junior level. T20 scorelines at U13 level tend to look something like 80-4 plays 70-5 – unless the game is hideously onesided (which they so often are), in which case it looks like 140-0 plays 45-9

      • I (still) play Surrey League, where the format is half the games 45 overs a side and half timed (with draws common). So no, adult cricket is not just T20 or 40 over. I do not suggest that maidens are uncommon at colts level – just that the mindset has changed so that too many colts panic once 3 or 4 balls have passed without scoring. The fact that they lack the power or technique to score does not change the mindset. And I agree about the forward defence. The problem I see is a reliance on protection, especially helmets, when facing the short ball once they reach 15 or 16.

    • “the colts all watch international T20, IPL and similar already”

      These are colts from a rich area presumably. None of my colts watch any cricket on tv, because their parents don’t have sky.

      • I would respectfully suggest your colts are the exception. Over half of all households have Sky or cable (and this is much higher in the family demographic) – and cricket clubs tend to disproportionately attract from more affluent families.

          • I would be interested in the source of your numbers. Sky do not split out subscriber numbers but have 11 million TV customers and, historically based on average revenue, it has been estimated that circa 40% have sports. Of course I was careful to include cable, so you have to add BT and Virgin sports customers to Sky numbers. BT had 1.5 million TV customers with free sports (inc cricket) in early 2016 (although the model is now to change). Add in numbers who watch illegally (easier than you think) or through commercial subscriptions (such as at the cricket club) and you get to way over 10%. I believe the top viewing figure for a Sky Sports event last year was nearly 3 million which also suggest a much higher availability than 10% of the population.

    • When T20 started, players with orthodox techniques had to graft T20 styles on top of that.

      I don’t see any inherent reason why it’s harder to go in the other direction? The issue, it seems to me, is if there is enough incentive to do so.

      • The thing is – at club level, there is no difference whatsoever in batting technique between T20s – where 7 an over is par, or 40 over games, where 5 an over is par.

        Those extra 2 runs an over come from simply being slightly more ambitious with shot selection and running, not suddenly using a completely different technique.

        I play plenty of T20 and I don’t play any of the silly modern shots – just hit the bad balls for four with an orthodox shot, and try to sneak singles off the good balls.

  9. It would be interesting to take an average age of the people who have responded to this post and also note down how many have described themselves as ‘dinosaurs’. Surely everything belongs to those that come next and when I have been to T20 matches I am always surprised and pleased by the number of children that are there. Personally I would rather watch test matches and county championship matches but I feel that the only way cricket can survive is through the younger generation actually caring about it and if that means watching T20 so be it. Some of those will go on to watch the longer form some won’t. Maybe the problem we, as the older generation face, is that we don’t see T20 as the same sport that we grew up with. That may be true. At some point we might have to face up to the fact that the sport we grew up loving just isn’t popular any more. A bit like snooker maybe. If a flame can be fanned through T20 I’m willing to give it my support on the off chance that it can save the sport I love.

    • Giles Falconer on

      Well I’m 60, but am I a dinosaur? Last season I watched a couple of days of Test cricket, quite a few championship games (virtually all home days the county headquarters), all home 50 over games bar 1, most T20 games and one day of 2nd X1 cricket. I’m happy to see a variety, and, if given an absolutely free hand as a ‘cricket dictator’ I probably wouldn’t change things much…But the proposals for after 2019 ARE a major change, and are likely to have a disastrous effect on the game I, and lots of other supporters, love.

    • Are today’s kids any different to us when we were kids? We keep hearing that people are in a rush these days, and first class cricket is just too slow for modern life, but what evidence is there for this?

      I personally tend to think that human beings are generally wired the same as they’ve always been. The problem in my opinion is the marketing. The ECB market / present T20 as the flashy new thing that’s cool, colourful and fashionable and so that’s what kids perceive it to be. Whereas the marketing for the championship is …. non existent.

      I think the decline of first class cricket will eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ECB mistakenly think it has no future (because they oddly believe that people are wired differently these days) and because of this first class cricket probably doesn’t have a future. But it’s not because kids are different these days; it’s because the custodians of the game have simply given up on it.

      My gut tells me that because first class cricket is a harder sell from a marketing point of view (because it’s a slow burn) it’s just too much effort for the ECB to bother marketing it. It’s far easier for lazy administrators to put all their eggs in the T20 basket and use ‘modern social trends’ as an excuse – as if the decline of first class cricket is somehow inexorable and out of their hands. The truth is different imho.

      The other thing about kids is that kids eventually grow up. When I was ten my favourite TV programme was Scooby Do. But now I’m an adult I much prefer watching the Godfather, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now or some other 3 hour epic. Why? Because there’s far more to it. If Scooby Do was the only show on TV, and there was nothing else, I probably wouldn’t bother watching TV these days. That’s why the authorities need to be very careful indeed by celebrating T20 at the expense of everything else.

      By the way I recently turned 41. Maturing yes, a dinosaur? Hmmm. Maybe!

      • You make good points James and perhaps (regrettably) first class cricket cannot be saved, but you miss the point on one issue. Yes, kids do grow up – but when they grow up they will not be able to play the short ball properly if they have not learnt to do so when a colt. And they will not learn when to attack and when to graft (as bats) if they lack this lesson when young. Basic technique does not get laid down in your 20s.

      • Its not that kids are different – because that is ignorant, patronising drivel, and its not that people have “less time” – because that is equally ignorant nonsense – we have more leisure time than ever before.

        Its that there are so many more competing options nowadays, that anything that is an “acquired taste” requires strong and consistent advocacy from a friend or relative.

        20 years ago or beyond, there was no internet and no computer games, and only 4 channels on the tv. If you got bored of playing outside as a kid, then pretty much the only thing on the tv worth watching was the cricket. Loads of kids got into cricket by simply watching it out of boredom and eventually getting hooked.

        I coach 2 different groups of kids, and the difference could not be more pronounced – the county kids all go to private school (without exception) where cricket is a compulsory activity, they all have sky sports, and they all know all about the England team and are all as immersed in cricket as I was at their age.

        The club kids all go to state school, their dads might be vaguely interested in cricket but don’t watch it anymore because they can’t afford sky sports, and the kids themselves have absolutely no interest in the game other than playing themselves. Even if you put a T20 game on the TV in front of them, they soon lose interest. They’re simply not invested in either of the teams in the same way they are in Arsenal vs Man United.

        One problem that cricket has always had in this country is a lack of a partisan interest in the county game. That has always been the case – I know hundreds of people who support various football teams, but I could count on one hand the number of people who claim to support a county cricket team – and I have been involved in cricket all my life!

        This is where the IPL and BBL have succeeded – they’ve managed to create partisan fan bases in each city. The problem we have in the UK is that so many people don’t have a local cricket team – who do you support if you grow up in East Anglia, or Cornwall, or Oxfordshire, or Staffordshire?

        I think people miss the point about T20. People find the games enjoyable to attend not because of the style of play, but because its accessible – I can watch a whole game in 3 hours, then go for a pint afterwards, which means I can go after work, rather than dedicating an entire day to it, which is an unrealistic commitment when you have so many competing work/childcare/club duties.

      • So many wise words on this thread. ECB’s biggest failing for me is incompetence. They are clueless about making a success of the county championship. As you say James, they don’t market it. If you wander through Brighton in the summer (and thousands do), you won’t know if there’s a match on at Hove.

        Anyone coming up with an event proposition of
        Don’t tell anyone it’s on
        Difficult to get to
        Expensive,
        Uncomfortable,
        Food and drink twice the price of the nearby pubs
        No guarantee of play if it’s cloudy
        Best players unavailable

        Would probably be laughed out of court

        I don’t believe the modern world with computers etc prevents people attending. People have and enjoy variety and aren’t all indoors in front of a screen. Again in Brighton, you’ll see plenty outside jogging, cycling, sitting on a stoney beach. I remember years ago, the heralds of doom warning that TV, then videos, then DVDs would kill off cinemas. They didn’t.

        However, without a change up top, I do fear for the continuation of the championship.

        PS confirmed dinosaur. I even remember packed county grounds

  10. If, as they presumably claim, the ECB is hoping to grow the interest in cricket through this new T20 City competition, there seems to me only two ways in which that will happen:
    1) It must be on FTA television – as the Big Bash is
    2) There must be current England international players involved.
    Sure I don’t need to explain the reasons for this but on the subject of the players, I think the ECB completely ignores the value of personalities in their rather feeble attempts to market cricket.

    It was a bit galling to hear the presenter on R2 the other morning having to give a lengthy piece on who on earth is Joe Root, despite him being one of the top four players in the world. Compare to India where the players are viewed in the same light as kids here view One Direction or whoever the latest one is! I am sure it helps a lot to get people to go watch a game (of any sort) if they have heard of some of the players involved. Imagine the Ryder Cup if it was being played by a second string from USA and Europe. I doubt it would get the same attendance.

    If people have seen Ben Stokes hitting sixes in the T20 or Stuart Broad taking 5-25, I suspect a more than a few might think it worth getting a ticket for a test match to watch them again.

  11. Great article.
    As a Hants supporter, I go once a year. £26 is too much for me ( They charge 21 for 50 overs and 20 for cc) on a consistent basis. No surprise then that our average crowd is 4,000.
    Great analogy with the darts “fans”. Since seats have been brought in we hear consistent singing of Yaya Toure ( not sure what he’s got to do with darts), shove your tables up your ******g **** and ” stand up if you love the darts.” This last chant was actualy sang at 6-6 sets all 1leg all in the Anderson Taylor final. If you love darts, then you would have been gripped.

    T20 cricket needs to be A) well marketed b) on FTA and c ) no more than £20 ( I would prefer £15 but Somerset,Surrey and Essex sell out)
    Unfortunately, Hants just look for the money rather than the long term future. The current 18-25 generation won’t have seen much cricket on tv and therefore won’t encourage their kids to play – 10 years down the line. We’ve completely lost sight of the big picture.

    • Hi Simon. I saw this story and desperately wanted to write something about it but (a) I’m just too busy at the moment, and (b) it proved extremely difficult to get my head around the proposed academy restructuring quickly so I was forced to move on.

      I also really want to do something about events at the ICC and the new / even newer proposals for the world test championship. There has been lots to cover recently. Sometimes I wish this site was just a forum!

      • "IronBalls" McGinty on

        James, please try not to move on from this story. It is really massive in terms of of English cricket.
        The machinations of the ICC are forever ongoing and can wait a while
        The ECB have picked a good week to bury bad news…this issue needs forensic scrutiny..

  12. "IronBalls" McGinty on

    Interesting, that the Academy’s story was (leaked) released at the same time the MSM were at their nexus of the Cook/Root love in? If not for Cricinfo it would have sneaked under the radar rather nicely?

  13. Madaboutcricket on

    Why is anyone surprised. 2020 will be the death of cricket not its saviour. The bats who have grown up being told (told not having played it!) that draw cricket is boring and win/lose is more fun are, unsurprisingly less good at digging in and have less techniques. They generally just want to smash the ball.

    The more kids I see the less technique they have and the more coaches are telling them to smash it etc.. shock horror, the quality of club cricket is falling.

    Pro cricket is being sold out and will die and continue its decline in quality as less technically and mentally correct players are produced.

    Add to that the lack of FTV, the cost of playing and the chew um up and spit them out nature of the colts clubs who use them for easy funds ..

    The game I love is dying and there isn’t a thing we amateurs can do about it.

    • What kind of club uses the colts for funds? Our adult team subsidizes or junior section, which is add it should be. You are involved in some very strange and badly run clubs.

  14. Post Brexit vote £ is also going to put pressure on teams to pay in other currencies – or certainly offer a lot more sterling.

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