City Based T20: A Not So Cunning Plan

Thinking is a dangerous thing – especially if you’re an ECB suit or a middle-aged cricket blogger. However, the ECB’s warning to counties that they must accept radical changes to the domestic game or face years of decline has got the grey matter churning. I mean, who the hell are the ECB to tell individual counties, who are only too aware of the problems facing cricket, that they need to ‘accept change … or else’?!

I have an open mind when it comes to this franchise, I mean city-based, T20 competition. I’m not sure it will work, but I’m willing to see if the ECB can make it work. However, the more I think about it, the more questions I have. For starters, why are the ECB trying to rescue cricket by pinning or their hopes on a simple T20 tournament? Attendances in the NatWest Blast have been pretty good. If it’s not broken why fix it?

Secondly, and most importantly, why are the ECB convinced that T20 cricket is the way to save cricket? They’re convinced that kids will become enamoured with the bish, bash, bosh of the shortest form and then automatically become addicted to first-class cricket when they grow up. But is there actually any evidence that T20 works like a gateway drug? Does everyone that loves playing pool in their local pub automatically fall in love with snooker and then go on a pilgrimage to The Crucible every year?

What’s more, the ECB’s warning to counties seems incredibly disingenuous. Everyone knows that introducing franchises, I mean city-based teams, is a danger to counties’ identities, so Graves, Harrison and Co are basically saying “vote for this thing that might kill you because if you don’t, you might get killed”.

The other thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that proponents of the new franchises, I mean city-based teams, argue passionately that having a single tournament in one block in high summer is logical. They claim that (a) this enables teams to sign star overseas players for the whole competition, and (b) the fact it’s played over a few weeks means it’s easier to keep up to speed with what’s going on; therefore the ‘narrative’ more compelling.

There’s just one hole in this argument – and it’s the size of the hole that the iceberg made in the Titanic: they’ve already tried scheduling the domestic T20 tournament in a block in high summer and it didn’t work. It was T20 overkill.

Although playing matches in a block sounds like a good idea, the matches came so thick and fast that spectators became exhausted. What’s more, supporters didn’t seem to have the spare time or disposable income to attend many games in a short period of time. Which is why, presumably, the currently structure where teams play on Friday nights throughout the summer, is attracting good crowds.

Although I initially thought it was significant that most counties voted in favour of the franchises, I mean city-based teams, I’m now having second thoughts. The counties are cash strapped. Everyone knows that. If you offer a relative pauper £1.5 million for doing very little, they’re bound to say “yes”, even if they have considerable doubts about what it might mean in the long term. Maybe it’s more significant that Surrey, one of the big boys with a large revenue stream, voted against the new competition.

The other thing is that nobody really knows how the new competition is going to operate. Very little detail has been announced. In typical ECB fashion, the details have been hidden behind non-disclosure agreements. As usual, the supporters have been left in the dark when it comes to the biggest and most contentious issue facing domestic cricket since, well, ever. It looks like we’ll have to wait until October, when the counties vote again, to learn more about the nitty-gritty.

My biggest question, however, is about first-class cricket. Why are the ECB so obsessed with bloody T20? We all know T20 has become the golden goose, but surely there’s no need to put all the golden eggs in one basket? I want to know how the ECB plan to breathe life into the county championship? I also want to know what Giles Clarke is doing to help promote test cricket at the ICC?

Basically the situation can be summarised thus: the ECB has warned counties that they must embrace change or face annihilation. And what does the ECB’s blueprint for change look like? It’s just one single T20 competition that involves less than half the counties and which won’t even start for another four years. As far as plans for saving cricket go, it’s a pretty rubbish one.

James Morgan


  • It’s an absolute mess of an idea, created by people suffering from pure envy of IPL and Big Bash riches who didn’t have the balls to pick one t20 tournament over the other and stick with it.

    The strength of the odi side doesn’t need it like they said it would, the calendar doesn’t need it, who is to say the top players in the world would even be interested in coming straight off the back of IPL into this?

  • Due to the ECB’s decision to make the county championship an elite v the rest competition, by relegating TWO counties, but only promoting one, Kent have been made to pay for that stance. Finishing runner up in division two would normally mean promotion, but in their wisdom, the ECB have given the runner up (looks like Kent) a massive “prize” of £57k.

    Strauss says these radical changes will help the game at both county and national level. I bet Strauss along with the rest of the ECB hierarchy are all total believers in the theory that globalism is still alive and well.

    57,000 pounds – I can’t wait to see how Kent plan to utilise all that money!

    Smaller counties – paupers indeed!

    • I was going to get onto the subject of reducing the size of the championship in div 1 but ran out of time. I feel very sorry for Kent (which is where I live these days).

    • Don’t worry. Lancashire (probably) and Nottinghamshire will be joining you in Div 2 next year.

      If they had the money they would be spending it on “upgrading” their grounds to ensure that they could retain TM Status.

      Lancashire made a “profit” of £800k last year (I think). Elimination from T20 and One Day Cup at group stage and probable relegation is not something to be jealous of. No overseas player since about half way through the season and haven’t won a (Championship) game since May 25th.

      You should see how well the new on-site hotel is coming on though. You’d be really impressed. It’s even going to be the same colour as all the other new buildings.

  • The European Central Bank – sorry, I meant the England and Wales Cricket Board – once again shows that it hasn’t got a clue…

  • James; your piece is very unfair… Baldrick. He at least had some cunning plans (even if they had their shortcomings). Sticking to the Blackadder theme I see the shirts at the ECB more as a combination of General Melchett and the Baby eating Bishop of Bath & Wells (in terms of the price the counties will pay for their money – which chairman will be first for the red hot poker?). Giles Clarke, on the other hand, is obviously a long lost descendant of Lord Percy Percy and Strauss is performing the Captain Darling role (of moving the ECB drinks cabinet 6 inches closer to Dubai).

  • I remember writing ironically elsewhere that the one saving grace for the county championship might be that they have to play more games on outgrounds. If I had a choice between watching a snazzy jazzed up t20 with the corporates quaffing their Pinot Grigios or watching first class cricket in a nice venue with real cricket fans around me I know my choice!

    • Here here! I just don’t understand how a new T20 tournament is going to save county cricket at first class level. If there was some kind of simultaneous plan to help the longer form, I’d be less cynical. The counties will obviously benefit from the windfall (if the franchise thingy works out) but all the talk is of changing the structure. I’m not sure how simply adding a new T20 competition is addressing the structural issues.

  • Where to begin?
    With a plan, so cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it an ECB suit…oops…weasel!
    Remember…this new shiny toy will be “wholly owned” by the ECB, and the constitution will have to be changed to allow it all to happen!…Just think about that for a moment…if that alone doesn’t shock you to your boots…it should!
    For this is an organisation, that, since the glory days of 2005, has not only conspired to throw the baby out with the bath water, but the bloody bath as well, and from a base of massive popularity “cricket was the new football!” they have managed to completely erase cricket from the public psyche! Well done chaps, champagne all round!!
    Events in the last few years have shown how they have managed to upgrade devious buffoonery to an unimaginable new level of conspiritorial chicanery!
    A soundbite on Sky News today has them saying, and I quote “It’s not about the money, it’s about growing the game”…and that, ladies and gentlemen, is an absolute, died in the wool, jumped up, never to come down again, lie!!!

  • It’s worth seeing if there’s a podcast of the lunch interview on TMS with Yorkshire CCC Chairman Steve Denison. He was very interesting and covered the proposed new T20 competition & the CC changes, among other things.

  • There seem to be two main goals on the ECB’s part – raise money and raise the game’s profile. The trouble is the these goals are potentially contradictory.

    Cricket Australia (who are no saints) have been clear that the BBL is about the latter. They’ve kept ticket prices low, got the tournament on FTA TV and marketed the games at young families. It will take a major transformation of the ECB’s mindset for the last decade to follow suit. Ticket prices are rumoured to be envisaged as about £60 and the chances of more than a handful of matches appearing on some obscure FTA channel that nobody but already committed cricket fans is going to find look minimal.

  • I really don’t see how white ball cricket in any format, let alone 2020 slog fest will help the game and first class skill levels. Already at the amateur level the move to win-lose from draw cricket (which is billed as boring) has seen teams simply not need a quality bowling attack but just stack your line up with hitters.. Smash 300 and sit back and wait for teams to get out.. Then it’s ‘great game’.. Umm?!?! Where are the tactics??

    2020 will attract only two tyoes of people.. Beer swilling footy fans (who will put off families/young) and corporates (who are already a Bain to the game). Add to that a ticket price above £10 and it’s not worth it..

    2020 for some reason is going to attract people and then they’ll want to play normal cricket.. Don’t make me laugh… You will out off people who don’t want to just slog (as is happening now!) and those few that do say or join will soon get bored of slogging every week.. Oh and skill levels will drop massively as both amateur and test cricket prove!

    Who will run clubs and do organising ?? The old who will hate 2020 will not keep doing hard work to support a bunch of sloggers!! Clubs will die

  • I’m with PKTroll – first-class counties should play more “proper” cricket on out-grounds, including in minor counties, which could be those of schools or clubs, lowering their expectations of facilities and pitch quality if necessary. Take cricket to the community rather than continue to expect the community to travel to cricket, with the attendant expense and inconvenience. Was it wise of some counties to have spent so much on developing a small number of grounds, which has locked them into maximising profits? Cricket is not association football, thank God, with seemingly limitless £millions sloshing around, so it must cut its financial cloth accordingly – and be much more willing to get out and about among the public. The supporters are there – they just need some encouragement to attend matches.

    • I’m supporting this too. Counties should get off their backsides and do some work to make cricket appealing to the public. Employing someone who knows something about marketing would help. Sensible prices, easy access, interesting and affordable catering – it ain’t complicated. I reckon they’re generally lazy.


copywriter copywriting