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ECB galacticos and the smell of BS

A group of supporters reformed the Lancashire Action Group late last year to lobby for better facilities at Old Trafford. An offshoot of that campaign has been a fanzine called not The Spin. It’s first edition sold 450 copies and now the second issue is about to hit the streets.  Editor and FullToss contributor Barry Turner says the plan is to provide a voice for all fans in print – something he believes no one else is doing.

In the new issue he takes a look at the ECB’s new 100 ball competition – from a different angle.

A new business model that sweeps away the old is called a disruptor these days. Uber and Airbnb are typical examples. I have lived through two traumas of this kind. The first was in the 70s when my grammar school in a poverty-stricken north-east coastal town was turned from a place full of bamboo-wielding child abusers in black capes to the Wild West when we joined up with the local secondary modern.

Incidentally, despite this disruption, five of my year got into Oxford. I doubt five people from Hartlepool have gone to Oxford since. I later happened to live next door to comprehensive system architect Shirley Williams and told her hope had abandoned that town thanks to her. But that’s by the by.

The second emergency case was a little over a decade ago when my employers, a newspaper group, were seized by a collective hysteria about the internet snatching away all that lovely advertising lolly. I was even retrained as a VJ (video journalist) but never actually shot an interview in anger.  I eventually had enough, took the cash on offer and scarpered.

What I did see, and what I see now at the ECB, is a slew of new age business gurus paraded in front of us like demi-gods. We know the future, they proclaimed!  They had utterly taken in the old guard at the top with technology babble.

Now let us look at what is happening at the ECB. On March 28 this year a new board was announced for the T20 franchise competition. Three weeks later this glitzy new money-maker had morphed into the 100 ball comp – just like that, as Tommy Cooper used to say.

Did the new board have a say? Let’s say they did. It would be logical. Who are they?

Let’s start with music impressario Mike McCormack, the man who gave Simon Cowell one of his first jobs and went on to inflict Adele on the world.

Other galacticos include Sahar Hashemi who founded Coffee Republic. Unfortunately it keeled over in 2009 but was saved in a buyout.  Never mind, she moved on from skinny lattes to Skinny Candy, some sort of low calorie sweeties outfit.

Or how about Caroline Rowlands, a promotional movie-maker who

spearheaded the film that helped clinch Qatar’s successful World Cup bid? Get in!

Former chief of hi-tech payments firm Worldpay Ron Kalifa will come in handy to help the doubloons roll in.

Others include brand master planner Suzi Williams and former head of Yahoo Europe strategy Sanjeev Gandhi.

Anyone connected with cricket you ask? Well Norm Gascoigne, chairman of Warwickshire makes an appearance as does Northants boss Gavin Warren. Chief cricket advisor is Michael Lumb.

Leading the cast is the ECB marketing guru Sanjay Patel who has expressed the view that the ECB is now a digital agency rather than a professional sports body who do a bit of digital.

Presiding overall is our old Yorkshire chum Colin  the man from Goole’ Graves. Said to be a typical blunt-speaking Yorkshire git one wonders whether he has been bamboozled by verbal googlies from the digital whizzkids. In fact, I am sure the elders of the ECB have been bowled over by the new kids on the block.

The ECB claims to be inclusive and says it has consulted ‘stakeholders’ – this word beloved of public sector management-types is meant to represent all those with an interest in the game of cricket. Except, it seems to be missing one element. Oh yes us, the fans, members, the paying customers.

It is staggering that the lifeblood of an entire sport is blithely dismissed as irrelevant. We weren’t asked about T20, T16.4, early season fixtures, and we won’t be asked about the names for the new franchise teams.

In the Brave New World those that matter are the digital generation and those they will worship on the small screen; in England’s case Root and Buttler.

Players like this have selling appeal, it is surely no coincidence that Buttler’s exploits in the IPL resulted in a Test recall? Exploitation is at the heart of what the ECB is all about.

Branding, image rights, soundbites, digital feed—this is the new philosophy. But first there will be a battle for we are not going quietly.

But have the administrators judged the mood correctly? A lot of cricket fans feel alienated but maybe the ECB think this dying breed are not the future.

This thinking can be seen at counties like Lancashire where revenue-generation supersedes membership numbers in the level of importance.

The 100 ball idea has been eagerly gobbled up by the Lancashire hierarchy and others. But remember some disruptors fail calamitously like in the dot com boom. Watch this space..

ODE TO COLIN GRAVES

Now is the summer

Of our discontent

Made inglorious

By this son of York

@BarryEditor1 or cricketeditor@yandex.com. For copies of not The Spin (£2 + 69 postage)

Barry Turner

2018-06-16T06:43:56+00:00June 16th, 2018|News|15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Hungerpang June 16, 2018 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Probably the best guest article I’ve read on TFT, a good read that sums up the feeling of many perfectly. Also reminded me of a tell off I got at work by some spiv maanager during the dot com boom – bizarrely, for using the word “customer”. “We don’t use customer any more, it’s all about building communities now”. Perhaps the finest piece of bullshit of my entire career, and not a million miles removed from what we see going on in cricket at the moment.

  2. colin June 16, 2018 at 7:35 am - Reply

    Brilliant article. We need more BS detectors!

  3. Lord Ted June 16, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I can only agree both about the quality of the piece (I laughed out loud at the opening paragraphs) and with the points it makes.

    Colin Graves increasingly looks like a man out of time and place & probably wonders why he ever agreed to take the role on in the first place; not that I have any sympathy either with or for him. It is utterly bewildering that an organisation charged with the stewardship of a sport with a 200 year history could allow itself to be beguiled in this way by false prophets and snake oil salesmen/women, but also perhaps, not entirely surprising. The ECB is stuffed with people who neither understand nor care to understand the richness of the sport; it’s now all about fast money & even faster cricket; if you can’t keep up then you are a dinosaur in the digital age. Well cricket has been around a lot longer than “Coffee Republic”ever was and who uses ‘Yahoo’ these days? That should tell you everything you need to know…..

  4. AndyB June 16, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Silly comparisons. Journalism has experienced a technology revolution and the industry was forced to react, and changes to secondary education have always been a political football with no consensus on structures for any length of time. Cricket is a sport with an established blue chip form (tests) which is the result of nearly 150 years of agreement, with only minor rule changes. Unlike journalism or education test cricket faced no external changes (technical or political) forcing change. So what do the idiots do? They pursue a form of baseball which means England cricketers adopt techniques unfit for the premier form of the game (and then wonder why we are shit at it).

    On the topic of the board (and the suitability of the members); ignoring the question of whether grandees such as Gatt are appropriate leaders when they seem to have more focus on the eat all you can buffet, there is a long history of appointing on connections and family to other ruling bodies. I am not sure whether this is worse than appointing on commercial background. Whenever I look at the MCC Committee and see the name of Judge Nigel Peters I am reminded of the Peter Cook sketch satirising the judge in the Jeremy Thorpe case (it is on Youtube and well worth revisiting).

  5. Frostie June 16, 2018 at 9:05 am - Reply

    If U batted/bowled as U rite(!) Ud play for England.
    Suggested adjective to describe above management style….BUBONIC

  6. stephenfh June 16, 2018 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Good stuff.

    A long time ago when the ECB did not exist, cricket needed a new audience and found with it the Sunday League, the game taken to 100 grounds in 1970s. It was also at a time when beer production was becoming standardised and concentrated in the hands of the then big six breweries; now beer is produced in many places and it is cricket with taste that needs its standardised manufacture unspun.

  7. Comte June 16, 2018 at 9:48 am - Reply

    I had the misfortune to listen twice to ECB representatives spouting the BS. They commissioned BSers to come up with excrement – lots of figures but few facts and I guess if those delivering the rubbish say it enough they may believe it and the gormless ECB absorb it. Great article.

    • AndyB June 16, 2018 at 10:13 am - Reply

      Whenever the issue arises of the ECB defending its idiocy I am reminded of the great Peter Cook’s demolition of the Thorpe case; borrowing from the script (with appropriate adjustments) it may describe the attitude of the ECB;

      “You will probably have noticed that the ECB have very wisely chosen to exercise their inalienable right not to answer any impertinent questions. I will merely say you are not to infer anything from this other than that they consider the allegations against them of destroying the game so flimsy that it is scarcely worth their while to rise from their seats and waste their breath denying this ludicrous charge….If you wish to believe the transparent tissue of odious lies which stream from the disgusting greedy slavering lips of the ECB critics, that is entirely a matter for you.”

  8. Marc Evans June 16, 2018 at 11:42 am - Reply

    A few thoughts from a sceptic.
    If the ECB were to petition cricket fans, presumably county members, how many people would that involve? A few thousand? These are hard core cricket fans, not typical of those you see at test matches and 1-dayers, where most of those attending are non members, there as a social event, rather like Wimbledon, The Open Golf and The Grand National. It’s an annual pilgrimage for many, and their only experience of live cricket. Most will only be there for 1 of the 5 days so have no concept of a test MATCH. Added to this I know precious few who will watch live test cricket for the day on TV. So where are the future guardians of cricket’s heritage?
    The new kids on the ECB block see all other sports trying to attract the young, so they have a future to look forward to. It is easier to do this using the short format white ball game. As we live in an image conscious world they are merely a reflection of this superficiality which has infiltrated all forms of entertainment, most moronically in music and the TV schedules.
    I should say here I am no fan of the present ECB set up and agree with you that it is actively presiding over a dumbing down of the game in an attempt to attract more public interest. You don’t see this in Soccer or Rugby, the other main team sports, because it only takes a couple of hours to complete a match.
    The ECB have never been a democratically accountable body and are trying new stuff, maybe for the sake of it as much as anything, but Butler worked at Headingly, against all ‘proper cricket’ predictions. Here’s a player who is in form, confident, wants to play test cricket, has done so before, so knows the score, knows it’s last chance saloon if he fails and has no baggage fall out from our winter of discontent. With no a.n.other pushing for obvious selection it was surely worth a punt. The hysterical criticism to me was childish.
    We may not approve of the new ECB direction, but if it gets public support surely that is justification, as there is no point to any professional sport without this support.

    • AndyB June 16, 2018 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      I understand your points but must take issue that there is no a.n.other pushing for Buttler’s place. Foakes was the no2 keeper in Oz, is clearly the best gloveman in England and has a (much) better FC batting record than Buttler. He would have been a much more obvious choice at no7, with the added benefit of Bairstow being able to focus on his batting. One decent red ball innings by Buttler does not wipe away his previous history of failure or hide his shortcomings in the longer form (I have no problem picking him in white ball). It is unclear what Foakes needs to do to get selected for tests.

      • Marc Evans June 17, 2018 at 9:18 am - Reply

        Butler is on a different planet to Foakes as a batsman, and I certainly wouldn’t have him wicket keeping in test matches. Drop Malian and there’s room for both, with Butler at 4 and Bairstow 5. This would be a true test, as more would be expected of them in terms of building an innings. If Roy could knuckle down and resist his white ball repertoire he’d certainly be worth a place ahead of Jennings as Cook’s partner. He looks compact and mostly plays straight with the full face and a decent stride. Added to this once he gets in he often scores big. Totally agree in playing your best keeper, and Bairstow clearly has issues with that knee injury from earlier this season, which will be tested more as a keeper than in the outfield.
        If you look at our white ball batting line up has there ever been such in depth talent available:
        Roy, Bairstow, Hales, Morgan, Butler, Stokes, Ali, Woakes, Willey, Plunkett, Rashid. (No room for Root)
        All capable of destructive hitting, Rashid even having opened the batting for his county.
        The World Cup is ours to lose if this lot can stay fit and anything like in form.

  9. Doug M June 17, 2018 at 6:41 am - Reply

    This should be issued to every club in the country. Really good stuff. A comment above refers to only a few 1000 county supporters, er no. Surrey alone has over 10,000. The BBC gets thousands listening to their online coverage. As for the ECB, I’ve been involved in sport for ages, and this is the only supposed governing body actively trying to destroy the sport they are supposed to represent that I have ever encountered.

    • Marc Evans June 17, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

      If Surrey have 10,000 members why are their county match attendances so poor!!! Even on a fine Saturday no county gets crowds of anything approaching 10,000. On line coverage is irrelevant, as it is in most things, it’s about commitment to the game, reflected in making time to watch your county, so actively supporting them.
      What are the ECB destoying. Cricket has always been a movable feast of a game. The ECB are trying to attract future generations of supporters. We may not like their money grabbing tactics, but something needs to be done here. If it doesn’t work then some other. Fashionable ta tic will be tried. This is the nature of the beast in today’s saturated leisure market.

  10. Barry Turner June 18, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the various comments – particularly the nice ones! I don’t think the comparisons I’ve made are silly at all. The thing is about disruptive business models isf that people can only guess at the endgame. The newspaper industry still doesn’t know how to make content online pay – and this is after a decade of trying. The ECB is taking a massive punt and none of them know how it will end.

  11. James Morgan June 18, 2018 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    Many thanks Barry. Always good to have your input. Cheers.

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