County news July 6, 2012

Surrey lead call for summer-long T20

Richard Gould, the Surrey chief executive, and widely tipped as a future chief executive of the ECB, has called for England's Twenty20 domestic tournament to be scheduled throughout the summer and has predicted it could bring "a dramatic increase" in the number of people who watch county cricket.

Gould's call is contrary to the preferences of England's professional players, who were in favour in a survey commisioned by the Professional Cricketers' Association, of a high-profile IPL-style tournament with concerted efforts made to attract the world's top stars.

Surrey have endured a crazed fixture schedule which would find favour with nobody, in which they have hosted four T20 matches in five days, shortly after staging England's NatWest Series tie against Australia.

He called instead for the ECB to cater better to the public demand to watch cricket by creating sufficient space between matches for supporters to come to more than just "the occasional game".

As the ECB extends its survey on the future of the domestic game, the battle lines have clearly been drawn between those who want to seek a high-profile tournament and those, like Gould, who believe in a traditional county-cricket solution, using primarily Engliush players and playing the tournament over the season. In that way, he contends, it would be using England's professional circuit to offer something distinct from the short and sweet tournaments elsewhere.

The Gould method would necessitate players switching from one format to another incessantly but would make all forms of the game available to spectators throughout the summer. It would also arguably exacerbate problems finding overseas players, a situation that is becoming increasingly critical.

Despite an unsuccessful campaign, Surrey pulled in almost 15,000 spectators for their match against Kent on Thursday - one of the biggest crowds in this year's weather-beaten tournament - and saw a similar turnout on Friday for their defeat to Middlesex.

"Having analysed the supporter data it is clear that the vast majority of the 15,000 supporters that saw us on the Thursday were not the same ones that came today because people do not have enough leisure time to come twice within such a short period," Gould said.

"Going forward we must provide a schedule that suits our customers, allowing sufficient space between matches so that supporters can come to most of the games rather just one or two, following the football and rugby models. Bigger crowds also make for a more compelling televised spectacle.

"For Surrey supporters this also means making sure most FLt20 games take place on Thursdays or Fridays, although the preferred day of the week varies from county to county. If we can achieve all this, allowing people to come and watch more than the occasional game; then we have a great opportunity to dramatically increase the number of cricket supporters in this country."

Gould first unveiled his preference for a more spread-out T20 schedule to ESPNcricinfo. He also suggested that a rejigged FLt20, which next year will have to be fitted in around the Champions Trophy, could create a better balance in the fixture list.

"It could also help those that regularly attend Championship cricket but currently have to endure a large part of the summer without it, having to make way for an exclusive diet of Twenty20. As a spectator sport we are working closely with the ECB to ensure that the needs of members and supporters are always the highest priority."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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