County cricket January 10, 2012

'There's going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth'


Ahead of the presentation of the full Morgan Review to the board of the ECB, ESPNcricinfo sought out the views of the 18 first-class counties

Derbyshire have been identified as one of the most vulnerable counties for so long that it is no surprise that their chairman Keith Loring states: "We want to be on the boat, not rocking it." In better financial health than most, they want strong decisions that stand the test of time and bring stability as a result. - David Hopps

County cricket needs to restructure in a way that does not just delight the dyed-in-the-wool cricket supporter, but the potential cricket supporter, according to Durham's chief executive David Harker. He suspects like many that the Morgan Review is a fait accompli. "We would like to see proof that this has been genuinely customer led," he said. "Then we need to stop naval gazing and have the confidence to promote it." - DH

Failed to return calls.

Alan Hamer, Glamorgan's chief executive, is generally supportive of the Morgan Review but is eager to see more meat on the bones. "We're supportive of the change, particularly 40-over to 50-over cricket. On T20, we need to understand more about when the games are going to be played. We understand broadcasting commitments and the need to have matches played on regular days throughout the week." - Alex Winter

Tom Richardson, Gloucestershire's chief executive, is more focused on getting the scheduling right rather than the type of cricket that is played. "We're reasonably ambivalent about 40 or 50-over cricket. We're keener that it's played at the right time." He originally signed up for more T20 with a longer period in which to play it. "It's far better that we play seven games over a longer period of time and we end up with one a week. The supporter can then plan his time - he knows, a bit like rugby, that you're going to be playing a home game every other weekend." - AW

Rod Bransgrove, Hampshire's chief executive, has always been an advocate of a more ambitious county set-up: fewer games, marketed more confidently, so bringing more credence to the first-class game. "If we play a bit less but better cricket, and integrate more with the England fixtures, the counties will see more of the England players and that will help everyone," he said. There is little to delight him in Morgan's pragmatism. - DH.

"Cutting the Championship programme is probably a necessary step if you accept that the Champions League is a feature of our season," said Jamie Clifford, the chief executive of Kent. "Personally I don't think it should be and feel that most of the scheduling problems we currently have would disappear if we didn't take part in it." - George Dobell

Morgan's proposals have not solved the problem of too much cricket, according to Lancashire's chief executive Jim Cumbes. "They have reduced the Championship but why have they increased Twenty20?" he asked. Lancashire supported the reduction to ten T20 matches in 2012 in the belief that fewer matches can be promoted more aggressively and want it to be given a fair trial. - DH

"What I don't quite understand," said Mike Siddall, the Leicestershire chief executive, "is that we discussed cutting the championship a couple of years ago and agreed we didn't want to. I'm not sure what has changed." Options for a reduced Championship programme "lack integrity," he argued. Leicestershire would welcome any cut in the salary cap. For a county that has lost several of its brightest talents - the likes of Stuart Broad, James Taylor and Luke Wright in recent years - anything that limits the spending power of their rivals will be gratefully received. - GD

Middlesex are in the unique position that they don't own their main home ground which means less financial risk on their part. They believe two division cricket has been a success but are not convinced by a return to 14 Twenty20 matches. "If you lose your first batch of games the rest can be like pulling teeth and that doesn't make for good cricket," said Angus Fraser, the managing director of cricket. - Andrew McGlashan

"I'd be disappointed if there wasn't any further room to debate David Morgan's findings," said Northamptonshire's new chief executive, David Smith. "I'm a supporter of the 16-game, two division Championship and I think it's played a big role in helping England becoming the best side in the world. I'm not a supporter of 50-over cricket, either, and think we'll damage attendances if we return to it." - GD

Nottinghamshire's priority was to protect the two-divisional championship, with promotion and relegation and that has been achieved. Beyond that they are anxious to see a county programme that makes sense. "The county programme must be put together holistically," said Nottinghamshire's outgoing chief executive Derek Brewer. "The customer must be at the forefront of the strategy." - DH.

Somerset support fewer Championship matches. "There has to be a reduction so we can prioritise quality over quantity," said their chairman Andy Nash. "The rational benefits will outweigh the emotional concerns and will help England remain on top of the world rankings." They will reluctantly accept a switch from 40-over to 50-over cricket, but feel that the future lies with T20. "Within five years, I believe it will be played every weekend during the summer. I just hope they change finals day: it's a drunkfest. Nobody wants a ten-hour marathon. We'd like to see finals day separated from semi-finals day." - GD

Surrey, the biggest spenders in the country, will be nervously watching Morgan's final decision on the salary cap. The cap, which is intended to protect the interests of the poorer counties, will continue, but Surrey contend that there should be dispensation for young players who have been brought up within the county system. Surrey do welcome a commitment to a more coherent fixture list. Their chief executive, Richard Gould, said: "Next summer we play three T20 home games in four days - that can't be good for the game." - DH

Big supporters of 40-over cricket - which contribute significantly to their finances - and reluctant to see the championship schedule cut, Sussex are unlikely to be pleased by Morgan's conclusions. "The purpose of this report was to create a vibrant domestic game," said Sussex chief executive, Dave Brooks, "so I don't really understand why we're going to return to 50-over cricket at the request of Team England. It really wasn't meant to be about them. Besides, it's just not true that playing over 40 or 50 overs is key to England's success. We didn't win a World Cup even when we did play over 50 overs." Brooks is also concerned by a reduced Championship. "It's essential, in the first division at least, that there is a symmetrical system. We can't have champions crowned because they'd played a weaker team twice and a strong one just once." - GD

"It was never going to be possible to keep everyone happy," said Warwickshire's chief executive, Colin Povey. "There are just too many interested parties: the bigger clubs, the smaller clubs, Team England, the broadcasters and the spectators. David Morgan has consulted widely and done a commendable job, but there's going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth over this." Warwickshire oppose a tighter salary cap and a reduction from 16 Championship games. "The Championship was the one competition that was working well," said Povey. "All it needed was a good schedule - and there's a real danger we're going to undermine its integrity." - GD

Worcestershire were reluctant to comment "at the request of the ECB." But like many of the smaller counties, they were keen to retain the 40-over competition and nervous about the reaction of their members to the cutting of the Championship. In 2011 they enjoyed higher attendances on some days of Championship cricket than for all but one or two T20 games. - GD

Yorkshire's chairman Colin Graves, desperate to reinvigorate a financially-stricken county, has been the most vociferous in the build-up to the Lord's meeting, stating that he will use his position on the board to argue for the Championship to be split into three divisions of seven. "I will be putting my ideas forward and I hope that people will take them on board," he says. He will be wasting his breath. - DH

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2012, 23:35 GMT

    Look on the bright side, in 2014 the ******/****** will clash with the footy World Cup, so not only will attendances be down as a result of overkill of a pointless competition, whoever's left will be sat at home with their tins of lager watching Argentina v Japan on the telly and not at Northants v Derbyshire. You can count on members/cricket fans boycotting the ******/****** and there'll be no-one else there. Big win for proper cricket, big fail for the ECB. Looking forward to seeing the egg on their faces, and brown bits on their trousers.

  • Paul on January 13, 2012, 17:51 GMT

    Appreciate attempts to simplify the schedule, not fussed whether 40 or 50 over and agree T20 needs a re-launch. However, an asymmetrical number of games will simplify nothing #leavethecountychampionshipalone. T20 needs new ideas; availability of England players, best-of-three match quarters and additional teams (Scotland, Netherlands and Ireland), not merely more games as in 2010 and 2011. The one-day competition should have fewer games than T20 and be mainly Sundays in later half of the season. Even the 2012 formats, including the Unicorns, are better than this. Congratulations Mr Morgan. A report that pleases no-one and solves nothing.

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Reports on this story state "Morgan consulted extensively and spoke to more than 300 players, coaches, county chairmen and chief executives before he compiled his interim report." As usual there is NO evidence of members and spectators being consulted. If they had been they would have said they go to matches to see runs being scored, wickets being taken, catches being held or dropped and matches being won and lost. They do NOT go to games to see players make money. Is it any wonder when a game sells its soul for short-term financial gain that some misguided people like Mervyn Westfield and Mohammed Amir then go a stage further and accept corrupt payments? Further, the evidence of last season suggests actually that there are not enough County Championship matches as shown by the need for Andrew Strauss to play as a guest for Somerset in their tour match with India last July which was basically hijacked to give him extra batting practice at the expense of Somerset going for a win.

  • Adam on January 12, 2012, 19:52 GMT

    So basically, pretty much everyone wants the Championship to consist of 16 midweek 4 day games, the T20 cup to consist of 10 group games played every weekend over the 1st half of the season followed by quarter finals, semifinals and a separate final, and the one day cup to be played over 40 overs every weekend in the 2nd half of the season with a final to round things off.

    So what we're going to get is a pathetic asymmetric 14 game championship with no integrity, 14 T20 matches all crammed together, and one day games over 50 overs. None of which anyone wants - not the players, not the administrators, and certainly not the spectators.

    If you have two solutions to a problem: one of which has 100% support and has already been shown to work effectively, and one of which has 0% support and would be an unmitigated disaster, which one do you implement?

  • Randolph on January 12, 2012, 11:52 GMT

    Would expect Yorkshire to win!

  • david on January 11, 2012, 19:52 GMT

    whatever is decided all clubs should be of the same opinion, england are the most important team. all clubs should be all singing on the same hymn sheet. the better england do the more money the counties get i think over £1,2000.00. take that from the balance sheets and a fine old mess they would be in. dpk

  • Martin on January 11, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    As a life-long Somerset fan I am incredulous, appalled and embarassed by Andy Nash's explanation of why we 'have to' have fewer championship matches. It reeks of management speak from an administrator who understands pound signs but not the game of cricket. 'Prioritise quality over quantity'. Are you seriously suggesting Mr Nash that 16 is too many championship matches in a season? Have you actually noticed how our current domestic structure has produced the best test team in the world? Did you ever speak to Justin Langer when he was at Taunton? 'The rational benefits will outweigh the emotional concerns'. So a county championship with integrity that has produced the no. 1 test side in the world is an 'emotional concern'?? I cannot see any rational benefit from these changes, but then again, my concern is with the long-term health of cricket in England and not simply with pound signs. Please explain Andy how these proposals will 'help England remain on top of the world rankings'.....

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2012, 16:05 GMT

    I agree with almost nothing that this review says. 14 championship games? Thats idiocy. 14 t/20 games? Stupidity. the only thing I do in fact agree with is changing 40 over cricket to 50 over cricket. 10 t/20 games is ample. I watched domestic games on the tele last one was there. No one. This is the entertainment business. Meenwhile, championships had good healthy crowds. If t/20s are not selling out nearly every single game...especially when the weather is good then it is not championship cricket we should be mucking with: its t/20. And with fewer games, you can isolate that block of games into one section, instead of jumping between championship and t/20 which is ludicrous and allows us to rest our players and as most of the other comments say, allow them to produce quality. thats not only good batting and smart bowling, but pace. Our county circuit lacks a lot of bowlers with pace. All the ones we've got are either in the north or with England.

  • Simon on January 11, 2012, 11:56 GMT

    I understand why the ECB would dabble with the structure if it had failed - but with the only aim of the counties, whilst they remain financially dependent on England, to produce a competitive side internationally - but it`s worked well. The 50-over thing is a nonsense, England win at home in their conditions, and lose abroad. So maybe sending England players on more training camps and more non-ICC competitions would be more effective. I really don`t think it`s necessary to change a lot; I`m not saying be complacent about things, but other than a sensible place for T20 things are working well. Don`t get the chance to say that too often.

  • James on January 11, 2012, 11:43 GMT

    Why keep changing? Let's see how the current CC works with fewer T20 matches before we go changing. Remember England are #1 NOW so why change? Interesting point by Worcs on attendance being larger at some CC games than T20: would be interesting to see this stat across other counties.

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