Joining the club
The county season is a month old and, with a new schedule designed to make it accessible to the public, there is the hope that more people than ever will make their way down to see some live domestic cricket. Perhaps more important than the time that the cricket is on is how much it costs. Tickets on the gate vary depending on county and competition. A ticket for a day at a Championship match costs somewhere in the region of £15. For Twenty20 games this can creep up to as much as £30.
The prices of seeing every game would be eye watering were you to buy them individually. At most counties it will cost you somewhere north of £400 to watch the seven T20s, four 50-over games and one day of each of the Championship matches. Clearly if you are going to watch that much cricket a membership is much more sensible.
For your membership, you would get to see 44 days of domestic cricket, if you had the time or the inclination to do so. There are people that do. The cost varies from county to county, with the cheapest being Northamptonshire at £145 and the most expensive at Sussex where you will pay £250. If you are a thrifty person, you may be inclined to work out when you would break even on your membership. With the average membership costing around £190, go to somewhere between 10 and 15 days of cricket and you have made your money back.
Where this gets a little more complicated is if your county has an outground, as many do. Glamorgan play the vast majority of their games in Cardiff, but they have festivals elsewhere during the season. There are five days of cricket in Swansea, and a further five in Colwyn Bay. For someone Cardiff-based, Swansea is an easy enough but Colwyn Bay is a 500-mile round trip. While there is no doubt that Glamorgan taking cricket to the north of Wales is a good thing, it does make a difference if you are looking for value for money.
County cricket is pretty good value for under-16s. All of the first-class counties have massively discounted memberships for kids. They range from £10 to £50 but at Worcestershire it is even better value. For every adult membership you purchase you get a free junior season ticket. Getting youngsters to the ground has to make sense for counties. Once they are there they will be asking Mum and Dad for a replica shirt, a hot dog and sugary soft drinks.
In addition to full memberships, counties offer any number of packages to fit in with what you will watch most. There are now deals for four-day cricket or one day cricket only. Quite a few clubs are now offering T20 season tickets. With many casual cricket watchers finding that T20 gives them the most bang for their buck, this is a sensible move. Getting people in the ground for a Friday night match will get the bar tills ringing.
The differential between the counties is interesting. You don't get anything more at Sussex or Hampshire, where a membership is £250, than at Surrey or Nottinghamshire where the cost is 30% to 40% less. Each county has its own overheads, and the more members you have the less you can charge, but is there added value for the sides with the more expensive tickets.
In a way counties can charge what they like. What others are pricing membership at is irrelevant, as they are not in direct competition with each other. If you live in Southampton, you are unlikely to travel to Chelmsford for cheaper cricket. The market will decide if they are charging too much, and whether £250 a year is value for money for you is subjective.
For the most part, county grounds are welcoming places. Children can get autographs from the players and play cricket on the outfield in the intervals. For the grown ups there is the chance to chat with other members, watch some great cricket and even drink some beer. They are pleasant to visit. Having the chance to go whenever you want is fantastic. You can grab a few hours after work, a long lunch midweek or a Friday night out.
Success helps in getting people through the gate. It is a lot more fun to watch a successful team than one that is at the bottom of the heap. For some, subjecting yourself to a losing side is part of the fun - those of us that watched England in the 1990s know all about this. For others, the chances of victory have as much to do with buying a ticket as how much it will cost.
What a membership has always given me is a sense of being part of the club. It is up to you whether you are interested enough to attend the AGM but you can if you want. Memberships bring access, information and the right to have a say about the future of the club.
If you have not had one before, why not invest in a membership for this season. It is what all the cool kids are doing.
Peter Miller writes for thearmchairselector.com. The two things he loves most are ugly runs and cricket stats. @TheCricketGeek