A manifesto for English cricket

On the eve of the general election, The Full Toss today sets out a manifesto for English cricket followers. Regardless of tomorrow’s result – and politicians care little for sport – here are five reforms which, we argue, are urgently needed to protect and strengthen our game. But isn’t it rather a shame we don’t get to vote for the ECB?

1. England home test matches on free-to-air TV The non-negotiable, the sine qua non. The government must re-list all England home test series, and put serious pressure on the BBC to not only host the coverage but pay adequately for it.  If the relevant authorities really wanted to achieve this, they could. At the moment they’re just making excuses.

2. ECB to invest in genuine grass-roots cricket Most ECB revenue goes straight back to the counties, who spend it on expensive Kolpaks and obscure overseas players. Supposed ‘grass roots’ investment is actually channeled to already wealthy and prestigious league clubs. The village game deserves its fair share. We call for a £10million upgrade of municipal and communal village grounds, and ten thousand £500 club grants for equipment and kit.

3. Abolish four counties What interest is served by the existence of 18 counties? They drain resources and dilute competitiveness. And because there are simply too few good players to go round, the clubs fill the gaps with imports. Reducing the number of first-class counties would raise standards, cut waste, and significantly lessen the amount of superfluous cricket played every season. Derbyshire members might not like it. Tough.

4. Reduce ticket prices How on earth can they justify £80 for a test match ticket? Prices are so high because the ECB charge counties around £3million to host a test match: the cost is passed squarely on to the punter. Where all the money goes is anyone’s guess, although images spring to mind of Giles Clarke merrily tossing rolls of £50 notes into the fire.

The ECB will argue that major test matches sell out – so the prices must be affordable. They are – to the well-off, and there are enough of those to fill the grounds. But what about people on lower incomes, especially parents who’d love to take their children to the cricket? The demographic base of cricket is narrowing, but the ECB don’t realise (or care) because revenue is steady – and this is deeply wrong. Cricket is everyone’s game.

We call for a £35 cap on test match ticket prices; £15 for under 16s. 500 free tickets for each day’s play should be distributed to schoolchildren.

5. ECB to recognise the role of supporters The ECB care what the MCC says. They are deeply influenced by what the broadsheet cricket correspondents say. And they care about the feelings of the leading players. But they don’t really give a jot for us – the spectators, followers, fans, and village players. Our role, in their eyes, is to dutifully buy match tickets, merchandise and Sky Sports subscriptions – and to do as we’re told. Enough. We pay for English cricket. We give it meaning and significance. We play the game, on parks and village greens. Without us, cricket is nothing.


  • I am not sure I would support the total abolition of 4 counties – after all, which ones would you abolish? There is too much history involved, even though the lesser counties don’t contribute as much financially. Cricket is a sentimental game on many levels, so it would be harsh to simply wiper Derbyshire off the map (not literally, of course!). Perhaps it would be better to make the lesser counties semi-pro? However, as a Worcs fan I am probably not being totally objective in this debate.

    I fully endorse Maxie’s comments about test match prices. £85 to watch Eng play Pakistan (who may or may not being trying their hardest) is an absolute insult. I simply will not pay anywhere near that amount. Prices should be reduced for sure.

    One way to make up the shortfall could be to market county cricket more aggressively – and actually design some county competitions that mean something to the fans (other than the T20 merry-go-round). I remember going to watch the Sunday league at New Road as a child. We used to go plenty of times over the summer. The grounds were generally packed and the cricket was entertaining. I know that cricket now has to compete with endless football on Skysports, but football is fast becoming a money-driven joke. There is more loyalty in cricket – and it could become a community driven sport once again (if counties were forced to play young talented players rather than washed up South Africas). I am sure that an opportunity is being missed somwhere.

    Re-structure county cricket, design some compelling tournaments, market it intensely at a local level … let the county game regenerate some of its own revenue. Then test ticket prices can come down. Cricket is become more elitist than ever. Time for Change!

  • Abolition of the counties is short hand for removing their first-class status. The clubs would still exist, and play, probably, as minor counties, but they would no longer receive an ECB hand-out or clog up the fixture schedule. To too great an extent the counties exist for the benefit of their members alone. First-class status is not a sinecure, nor a birthright.

    I don’t see why generating revenue should be such a priority; we shouldn’t organise cricket around the principle of making money. Cash is a means, not an end, and it’s unclear what happens to it all anyway. Don’t wait to cut prices – do it at once. In the long run it will help built the cricket community – which is good for the money men as well.

    • But presumably if test match prices are cut in half, then less money will filter down to the counties and the grass roots. The short fall will need to be made up somewhere. Abolishing 4 counties wouldn’t be enough, surely?

  • Test match tickets are so expensive because the ECB charge counties £3million to stage a test match – if they reduced that fee, the counties could drop ticket prices.

  • Headline today on BBC News:

    “ECB under pressure to support Euro after Greece collapse”

    If the England Cricket Board is expected to look after Europe’s ailing economy and the single currency, I can perfectly understand why they need eighty-five quid per ticket.


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