County news August 9, 2012

Fans surveyed on future of county game

ESPNcricinfo staff

The long-awaited restructuring of county cricket has been delayed for a further year, until 2014, while the ECB embarks upon the biggest survey of cricket supporters ever undertaken.

The ECB has commissioned the independent research company, Populus, to distribute the survey to hundreds of thousands of cricket fans recorded on the databases of the 18 first-class counties and MCC. Users of the ECB website and their official fan community of English cricket, Twelfth Man, will also be invited to respond.

ESPNcricinfo, as the largest cricket website in the world, is also committed to providing maximum publicity for the survey and urges every follower of first-class cricket in England to commit half-an-hour to completing the form.

David Hopps, UK editor of ESPNcricinfo, said: "The ECB deserves credit for finally awakening to the desperate need for them to carry out an extensive survey of cricket supporters to discover what they really want the future of cricket in England to look like.

"I believe that readers of ESPNcricinfo in the UK are some of the most committed, knowledgeable and forward-thinking cricket followers around. We see from our readership figures on a daily basis how much you care about our coverage of the county game. I strongly urge you to take this opportunity to make your voice heard and ensure county cricket resonates as a valued part of our sporting summer for many years to come."

The future structure of the county game was thrown into confusion when the Morgan Review, a consultation process undertaken last summer by the former ECB chairman, David Morgan, received a lukewarm reception from the counties.

In seeking to balance many diverging views, Morgan's proposals, which included a reduction in the amount of championship cricket, were widely seen as an unappealing compromise that failed to provide a convincing new direction for the game.

Morgan had an unenviable task in trying to balance many diverging views about the future of the county game. He recommended a reduction in championship matches from 16 to 14, a return to 50-over cricket and 14 Twenty20 matches, played throughout the summer. His proposals were shelved by the ECB Board in March.

County chief executives, coaches and the Professional Cricketers' Association had all lobbied the ECB in the belief that in his urge for compromise Morgan, a former chairman of ECB and ICC, had failed to provide an inspirational blueprint for the game.

One of the wettest summers since records began have added to the confusion as counties brace themselves for heavy losses after the Friends Life t20 tournament, already overshadowed by high-profile tournaments such as IPL, was severely disrupted.

An ECB statement said: "The results of the survey will be reviewed by the ECB Board this winter and incorporated into planning for the 2014 county season and beyond.

"The survey will also be offered to people who are less attached to the game - for example, people who have never attended a county match before or have done, but not in the last few years.

"The results will be considered by the ECB Board alongside findings from the Morgan Review, which consulted a wide range of the sport's stakeholders, including commentators, officials, current and former players, counties, supporters and other sporting bodies in 2011."

England's first-class structure survives primarily because of additional revenue from England matches, but David Collier, chief executive of the ECB, claimed: "Approximately 1.5 million fans attend county cricket every season and we are intent on getting more people through the gates into our county grounds.

"Along with the Morgan Review, this piece of research is essential to our planning for the future of county cricket, and we are committed to listening to the opinions of fans."

The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and will be available until August 28.