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County season could begin overseas

George Dobell

June 3, 2013

Comments: 61 | Text size: A | A

General view of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Pakistan Masters v Sri Lanka Masters, Abu Dhabi, May 2, 2005
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi could become a venue for early season County Championship matches © AFP
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County cricket could be played overseas as the ECB seek a radical solution to ease fixture congestion during the English season.

ESPNcricinfo understands that, among a raft of proposals under consideration, the ECB has floated the idea of playing the first two rounds of the County Championship overseas, possibly as early as March, in a move that is designed to ease fixture congestion and avoid some of the early-season issues with the weather. This season started on painfully slow pitches and in uncomfortably cold conditions that did little for players or spectators.

The Caribbean is one potential venue. Six teams travelled to Barbados this March for pre-season training and warm-up games and it is understood that several Caribbean nations would be delighted to host the counties and their travelling supporters. The UAE, where the MCC Champion County match has taken place for the last four seasons, and South Africa are other potential destinations.

While the initial signs are that several counties are supportive of the idea, others are concerned about open rebellion from their members. It is probable that the value of a county membership would be reduced if counties offered fewer matches as part of the package. While subsidised travel to the overseas games may placate a few, for many it may prove too expensive. Whether the idea of better scheduling in more comfortable weather for the rest of the domestic season is adequate mitigation remains to be seen.

Reaction

  • "Is it April 1? I would be very concerned about who was going to pay for it all." Angus Fraser, Middlesex director of cricket
  • "The club have invested heavily in the facilities at Headingley and we're well supported in Yorkshire, so to take matches elsewhere would deny the Yorkshire public." Andrew Gale, Yorkshire captain
  • "I did the Champion County match in Abu Dhabi and they were great conditions that allowed for good cricket." Barry Dudleston, former first-class umpire
  • "There could be fan mutiny. The British weather sees to it that cricket is already limited." Andrew Bloxham, ESPNcricinfo Supporters' Network Blogger

Cost is an issue for the counties, too. But it is understood that the trips could be subsidised by sponsorship and possibly even host tourist boards.

Apart from allowing more time for rest, recovery and practice, the longer county season might also bring other benefits. It might, for example, also allow counties to participate in the Champions League - no counties are appearing in the 2013 competition as it clashes with the end of the county season - and it might create room for a second T20 competition, played in a small window in mid-season.

The ECB are keen to encourage radical debate on the future of the county game as they seek to improve the standard of cricketers emerging through the system and help the counties gain more financial independence. While many of the proposals are not likely to progress beyond conversation stage, this one - while in an embryonic phase at present - appears viable.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (June 7, 2013, 11:03 GMT)

This seems like a crazy idea to me - it is hard enough to get people to go to county cricket games when they are played locally. If people aren't willing to put on an extra few layers to watch a game on a cold April day, what makes the ECB think they will pay to fly to another country to watch the match? There may be one or two people who have the combination of time, money and interest to attend a match in the caribean, but I can't imagine the numbers will be higher than currently attend county championship matches.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 22:40 GMT)

Great idea but strangely enough some of the selfish County members don't care about the state of English cricket as long as they get to watch some County Cricket!

Posted by   on (June 4, 2013, 19:36 GMT)

Why don't we just move the whole of the UK to the Caribbean? Maybe we could rig up some sort of towing device.

Posted by   on (June 4, 2013, 18:34 GMT)

Given the increasingly poor standard of most days I've seen at the Ageas Bowl this year, and the negative mentality displayed in matches such as the recent Hampshire v Lancashire match, it's fast reaching the stage where I wouldn't bother crossing the street to watch most of the matches, let alone whisk out my passport. Just when I thought nothing would surprise me about county cricket, this proposal shows how badly out of touch with reality it has become.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (June 4, 2013, 17:36 GMT)

Would it not be easier,cheaper and more valid just to section the ECB board?

Posted by SirViv1973 on (June 4, 2013, 15:32 GMT)

@Dr Vindaloo, Thanks for your witty reply, which by the way contained no points to back up your original suggestions or to question my counter argument. Ps I have been unable to watch my local county Glos over the last few days as they have not be in action!

Posted by   on (June 4, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

Make more sense to play the first 2 rounds in Spain. It's cheaper and quicker to get to and already has a large ex-pat community to bolster crowds. With regards to membership refunds, how on earth can you refund something that nobody watches anyway? It's laughable the counties try and charge £15-20 a day for a county championship match.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (June 4, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

@Aditya Anchuri you know nothing about county cricket and It should be of no concern to you as most county followers especially here in yorks take more interest than yorks than eng so we have nowt against India. Just out of interest though how many bother turning up for domestic cricket in India (proper cricket not ipl) Anyway ridiculous idea

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