When they aren’t spending their time alienating their best players for no particular reason, the ECB tend to use it to dream up ever more imaginative ways of screwing the structure of domestic cricket in this country. In an, almost unprecedented, moment of clarity this week they opened the floor to the public, the people who ultimately decide whether their weird and wonderful new ideas are a success, for the first time. This interaction came in the form of an online survey which seemed to go on for decades as tick box followed tick box and leading question followed leading question before, finally, there came a shimmering light at the end of the tunnel in the form of an ‘additional comments’ section. Aha! The opportunity to comment on all the issues raised over the seventeen years it took to fill out this questionnaire. We typed, and typed, and typed a little more. Our creative juices were flowing and we were in the zone. Eventually we’d said our piece and it was time to send it out into the big wide world. It was time to make a difference.
…Or, at least, it would’ve been, had the ECB’s dictatorial instincts not got the better of them again. There was a character limit on submissions which we had gone over in spectacular fashion. Fortunately, we are not easily defeated. Before hacking our beautiful work to pieces in a fit of pique, we saved it so we could release it into the wild later on. So here, in all its glory, is what we wanted to tell the ECB survey:
Whilst the survey is an excellent idea and something which probably should have been done during the Morgan Report itself, it doesn’t seem to address the problems it is aiming to solve head on.
A 40 over one day tournament might be more suited to bringing in bigger crowds (although even that must be debatable), but it seems completely illogical to play a different format at domestic level to the one England play internationally. Does a 40 over game bring in enough revenue to make up for the fact the players aren’t getting experience of two new balls, powerplays and the like? This will be particularly significant when the international format changes again later this year.
The other huge problem with the CB40 as it is now is the way the leagues are structured. A system where each team plays 12-14 games but only one qualifies from each group makes for a whole heap of matches with nothing riding on them. That is terrible for the tournament as a whole. Quarter finals really have to take place – there has to be two or three teams qualifying from each group or the whole thing becomes a complete waste of time.
For the T20 competition, whether it is spread over the course of the season or put together in a lump will make little difference to the crowds if prices remain as high as they are and matches continue to be scheduled at ridiculous times of the day. It is surely the form of the game which should be used to introduce the sport to a new market of fan – principally the younger generation. How do you hope to do that when two of the quarter finals are scheduled while people are still at work and by pricing it so it would cost a family the best part of £100 to go to a game?
It would be better for the competition to be a four week one for the players, as they wouldn’t then have to keep jumping between formats. Teams could then play three games a week, in the evening, priced at something like £10 per person with under 16’s £5 or free, if that’s possible, and people would be able to go. Scenarios like Surrey this season, where they ended up playing four home games in the space of five days (although I appreciate there were extenuating circumstances there to an extent) are obviously not good.
6:30-9:30 would be a good time for T20 games to be scheduled. It would work for TV audiences as well as for those who want to go. It’s almost incomprehensible that anyone thought having those games in the middle of the day was a good idea.
The County Championship is less of an issue. The target market there is probably going to go regardless of what day the games are on. More effort should be made to ensure one day games are played at the weekend because they would gain more from such a decision, but it might be worth exploring whether you could schedule the important, end of season Championship games for weekends.
It’s difficult to see how a 14 game season would benefit anyone. All it would do is make the competition more complicated and less fair. Teams would feel hard done by if they had to play a particularly strong side twice that year while their nearest rivals only had to do so once. Moreover, raising the issue of a potential 14 game season in the form of perhaps the most leading question ever posed by a survey was almost insulting to the fans’ intelligence.
As much as possible it would help to have all the games of a particular week starting on the same day, but I appreciate that might not be possible what with having to fit all the one day games in as well. Having staggered start times makes the games more difficult to follow, but it might well be a necessary evil.
It seems to me that the county game has the potential to attract a much bigger market than it does currently. At the moment it feels like its popularity is despite the schedule.
Strenuously advertising the fixture list only works if its easy to follow. If T20 matches were all scheduled for the evenings – 6:30 start for the sake of argument – then you can create a buzz around each matchday. At the moment it seems the best way to find out there’s a game on is to stumble across it.
The big ‘derby’ games should be, as much as possible, on Friday or Saturday nights, and every effort should be made to ensure these don’t clash with anything. Playing showpiece games while England were playing football at the European Championships, for example, was never going to end well.
Said survey, if you are willing to sacrifice a substantial part of your day to filling it out, is on the ECB Website.